Abuse and Neglect: The Impact of Childhood Trauma on Wellbeing

This information was taken directly from Child Welfare Information Gateway

The Impact of Childhood Trauma on Well-Being

Child abuse and neglect can have lifelong implications for victims, including on their well-being. While the physical wounds heal, there are several long-term consequences of experiencing the trauma of abuse or neglect. A child or youth’s ability to cope and even thrive after trauma is called “resilience,” and with help, many of these children can work through and overcome their past experiences.

Children who are maltreated often are at risk of experiencing cognitive delays and emotional difficulties, among other issues. Childhood trauma also negatively affects nervous system and immune system development, putting children who have been maltreated at a higher risk for health problems as adults. For more information on the lasting effects of child abuse and neglect, read Child Welfare Information Gateway’s factsheet Long-Term Consequences of Child Abuse and Neglect: consequences.cfm

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network’s webpage What Is Child Traumatic Stress offers definitions, materials on understanding child traumatic stress, and several Q&A documents:

The Monique Burr Foundation for Children’s brief Speak Up Be Safe: The Impact of Child Abuse and Neglect explains the immediate and long-term consequences of child abuse and neglect to child, family, school, and community well-being:

The National Council for Adoption’s article “Supporting Maltreated Children: Countering the Effects of Neglect and Abuse” explains several issues common to children that have experienced abuse or neglect and offers suggestions for parents and caregivers on talking with children and helping them overcome past traumas:

ZERO TO THREE produced Building Resilience: The Power to Cope With Adversity, which presents tips and strategies for helping families and children build resilience after trauma:

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Child Welfare Information Gateway’s web section on child abuse and neglect provides information on identifying abuse, statistics, risk and protective factors, and more:

The Information Gateway Reporting Child Abuse and Neglect webpage provides information about mandatory reporting and how to report suspected abuse:

The National Child Abuse Prevention Month web section provides tip sheets for parents and caregivers, available in English and Spanish, that focus on concrete strategies for taking care of children and strengthening families:

Information Gateway also has produced a number of publications about child abuse and neglect:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) produced Understanding Child Maltreatment, which defines the many types of maltreatment and the CDC’s approach to prevention, in addition to providing additional resources:

Prevent Child Abuse America is a national organization dedicated to providing information on child maltreatment and its prevention:

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network strives to raise the standard of care and improve access to services for traumatized children, their families, and communities:

Stand for Children advocates for improvements to, and funding for, programs that give every child a fair chance in life:

A list of organizations focused on child maltreatment prevention is available in Information Gateway’s National Child Abuse Prevention Partner Organizations page:


This updated factsheet is based on a previous publication that was adapted, with permission, from Recognizing Child Abuse: What Parents Should Know. Prevent Child Abuse America. ©2003.


Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2013). What is child abuse and neglect? Recognizing the signs and symptoms. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Bureau.