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Courtney Cole
Professor Campbell
08 November 2015
UWRT 1103-H
Black and Blue: The Cycle of Child Abuse
Bumps and bruises turn to emotional scars, emotional scars turn to horrid
memories, and horrid memories become a harsh reality. These feelings take over the
places that should be filled with Saturday morning cartoons, kids movies, games, and
childhood innocence and joy. Child abuse has the power to disrupt, dismantle, and
destroy the life of a young child. It has the power to cripple the mind, body, and spirit,
sucking away their joy, playfulness, and curiosity. It infects them with depression,
anxiety, and relationship issuesto name a few. Individuals that should be protecting the
children are instead attacking them physically, emotionally, verbally, and even sexually.
There are such instances when the victim grows up and abuses others due to dissociation
and the inability to cope with their past traumatic experiences. In this instance the cycle
of abuse ensues and the lingering effects of child abuse run wild, as the victim becomes
the victimizer instead of the survivor. Men and women are both prone to certain instances
of child abuse; however, it has been shown that more women are likely to be sexually
abused as a child, which can later affect the relationship between herself as a mother and
her child. I would like to explore the cycle of abuse including its misconceptions, truths,
and the lingering effects of child abuse that plague individuals into adulthood.
At an early age we learn the idea of cause and effect. One thing happens which
then causes another and so forth. In this case, the effect is trauma and a cycle of abuse

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that can linger on into adulthood, but what about the cause? Before moving forward, it is
important to dissect the causechild abuse. Child abuse in essence is any form of
physical abuse including but not limited to sexual mistreatment of a child. Child abuse
can also be verbal, but all forms do leave the emotional damage that can plague a child
for many years to come. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services statistics for 2006, approximately 905,000 U.S. children were found to have
been victimized that year (Babbel). Im no data collector or statistics guru, but that
number is outrageously high and should not even be existent. The same article by Babbel
also goes on to say that roughly 16 percent of those children were physically abused with
the remainder either being sexual abuse or neglect. Most children are expected to live
and lead happy lifestyles, going to school, being involved, and making new friendsthe
last thing that they should be worried about is the maltreatment from another individual.
In most instances, the perpetrator of the abuse is a family member, family friend, or other
individual that has familiar ties with the child. In television shows and movies we often
see a young child being abused by a parent or in some cases a distant relative like an
uncle or aunt. It could all start as a slightly raised voice, followed by physical abuse (not
to be confused with corporal punishment); in any instant, it seems as if the child is made
to think that it is their fault as the abuse ensues. Its important to note that when it comes
to gender, there are no exceptions. Im sure many people think males are the main
perpetrators or that females may be the only victims; however both genders are equally
likely to be on either side of the spectrum, it is just a matter or what incidents are
reported. Child abuse is often a repetitive sequence of violence, normally the perpetrator

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will strike multiple times but even if its only once, the violent behavior consequently
leads to detrimental effects down the road.
At this point, Im sure youre wondering how could an adult ever abuse a child?
While theres no exact answer for that, there are some theories that tie in to the cause of
this situation. Interestingly, I have found that there is a gene related to violent behavior.
Combinations of the MAOA (Monoamine Oxidose A) gene and the CDH13 (Cadherin)
genes have been found to explain the ideology behind violent behavior in individuals
(Deans). Predominately, the MAOA genes plays a major part in violent behavior and has
been pronounced the warrior gene. It has been said that the low amount of enzymes
compared to the large amount of neurotransmitters including dopamine, epinephrine, and
norepinephrine lead to lower levels of depression but increased likelihood for violent
behavior (Deans). With that being said, it is likely that the perpetrators of child abuse
may have some history of the warrior gene in their family or may have inherited it
themselves. For example, John may have a history of violent behavior in his family and
it just so happens that John himself is a violent person and perpetrator of child abuse on
his own child; it is likely at this point to assume that the erratic and violent behavior in
the cycle of abuse is caused by the genetic code for violence. This same article further
goes on to clear additional assumptions about the genetic code in relation to violence. It
will never be accurate to say that there is a particular gene for violence or any other
specific behavior (Deans). With that being said we must recognize that violent behavior
varies per individual and while for some it may be genetic, circumstance and
environmental factors motivate others. In contrast to John mentioned earlier, James may
be violent and aggressive towards his child due to his failing marriage and stress on the

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job. He would choose to physically harm his child as therapeutic measure because in this
case the child is helpless and cannot defend himself in the same way that an adult could.
James behavior in this instance would not be influenced by his genetics but his
circumstances and inability to cope with them. In the end, there is no definite cause for
child abuse because the situation varies on a case-by-case basis; however, the effects of
child abuse on the victim and the cycle that follows have similar correlations.
A childhood lead by hopes, dreams, and childish desires become replaced by the
damaging and lingering effects of child abuse, childhood bliss and games are terrorized
by a harsh hand and foul words, happiness, joy, and creativity are shadowed by
compulsive behaviors, post traumatic stress disorder, and depression. One of the major
effects of child abuse includes the development of PTSD, which is the instance when a
child remembers traumatic events that occurred in the past. According to the American
Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry some symptoms of PTSD include:
frequent memories or talk of traumatic events, extreme emotional reactions, irritability,
anger, and/or violence (Babbel). In addition to this, the child can experience severe
forms of anxiety, grief, self-blame, and guilt (ASCA). Children that should be enjoying
their childhood are at this point helpless and left to cope with the traumatic experiences
of the past. Symptoms like depression and PTSD can and will affect the day-to-day
activities of the child. Depression could lead to nervousness, extreme sadness, thoughts
of suicide, and guilt. With PTSD they will constantly be reflecting on the one time soand-so hit them or so-and-so molested them. The memories of school plays, after school
activities and friendship are replaced with nightmares of bruises, hard knocks, and
negative encounters with the individual(s) they thought they could trust. The severity of

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the long term impact of the abuse is dependent upon the following factors: abuse that
started early, long lasing abuse, relationship and closeness between the victim and
perpetrator, harmful impact, and abuse that occurred in an emotionally cold atmosphere
(Goleman). Its important to note that during this stage following the abuse where therapy
could be implemented could be a turning point when the victim overcomes the abuse and
becomes a survivor versus one that is unable to accept the harsh realities of their past and
remains a victim or unfortunately become a perpetrator later on in life, thus leading to the
cycle of abuse.
Now we know that some children who experience child abuse overcome their
struggle and become survivors; however, there are some who for some reason go from
being victims to victimizers. With that being said, I must ask: why do some children that
were abused grow up and abuse others? There must be some level of disconnect between
those that survive and those that victimize. A study conducted in 1989 found that roughly
one-third of individuals that have been abused as children will grow up and abuse other
people (Goleman). It can be assumed that children who were abused would grow up and
abuse others more than those who were not abused and then abuse other people; however,
it has also been found that parents who were abused and abuse others are more likely to
be reported for abuse than parents who were not abused as children but currently abuse
their children, see (fig 1) (Krisch). Aside from the assumptions that abused children
always become abusive parents, it is important to recognize that a cycle of abuse does
exist in certain circumstances. Going back to trauma and recovery, at a young age and
also depending on the circumstances surrounding their situation, the child experiences
trauma induced repetitions due to PTSD. Due to their inability to overcome the trauma of

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the past coupled with the repetitive and harsh reminders of PTSD, these children reenact
their victimization experiences in play and in their relationships with others (Green
1334). As sated earlier, in contrast to the individuals that overcome their child abuse
experiences, these children at some point during the period following the abuse, are
unable to fully grasp what has happened to them, and then inflict their experiences on
another person. Green mentions the idea of dissociation as it relates to the cycle of abuse,
dissociation obliterates the memory link between the parents own childhood abuse and
the maltreatment they inflict on their child. Whether the child has attended therapy or
not could play an active role in their recovery, how they accepted the helpful information,
and the relationship they had and still have with their abuser play a vital role in how they
deal with their experience. For instance, if Tom is abused by his uncle that spends
considerable time with the family Tom will still have to see his uncle which then creates a
distaste for him. Over the years depending on how long the abuse occurred, and Toms
attendance in therapy or counseling will affect his future relationships with others,
especially his family. As stated earlier, child abuse negatively affects the relationships
that children and later adults have with those around them. They develop a distrust for
others and can shut themselves out from the world around them while at the same time
being engulfed by the emotions and traumatic experiences of their past. Because of
dissociation they are unable to distinguish their past from their present reality and
consequently abuse those around them, thus creating the cycle of abuse. In addition,
victims of abuse have been lead to abuse others because of abuse denial ,which is an
instance when a victim that was abused as a child does not associate their experience as
abuse nor consider themselves a victim (Goleman). If the adult does not associate the

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physical abuse as child abuse but rather as punishment they may inflict the same
treatment on their own child or younger family member. They could be in denial as a
form of defense or victim blaming instructed by the perpetrator. At this point the cycle of
abuse begins because the victim becomes the perpetrator and the differences between the
survivor and the eternal victim come to light.
DATA
Abused Parent
Average Parent

PHYSICAL ABUSE
6.9%
5.4%

SEXUAL ABUSE
7.7%
3.4%

NEGLECT
18%
9.5%

FIGURE 1
Krisch, Joshua A. New Research Questions Cycle of Child Abuse. Vocativ. Vocativ, 26
Mar. 2015. Web. 13 Oct. 2015.
Child sexual abuse as an extension of child abuse also has the power to ruin the
parent child relationship, particularly the mother-child relationship. Child sexual abuse
can be defined as the sexual mistreatment and molestation of a young individual who
cannot give consent. According to an article by Melissa and Joshua Hall, 28 to 33% of
women and 12 to 18% of men were victims of childhood or adolescent sexual abuse
(Roland et. al in Hall and Hall). With that being said, I am going to explore the effects of
CSA (child sexual abuse) on women as they progress into adulthood and the negative
effects it has on the relationship with their child. CSA as a young female can lead to
prolonged post-partum depression and dysthymic depression amongst women as they
experience motherhood (Duncan #). Post-partum depression is typically an occurrence
for most new mothers; however, this extent of post-partum depression coupled with
PTSD from their past experiences equals dysthymic depression. Motherhood can already
be a full time endeavor that causes stress and weariness, but with the addition of trauma
from CSA motherhood reaches new heights as it either becomes too burdensome to bear

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or could result in some form of mistreatment towards her own child either purposely or
inadvertently. For example the 2009 movie Precious based on the novel Push focuses on
the sexual abuse of teenager Precious from both her father and her mother. Its unclear if
her mother was sexually abused as a child; however; she allows the father to molest
Precious at first unknowingly and later purposely. In addition, she herself also abused
Precious both physically and sexually. The mother-child relationship here is destroyed;
however, Precious breaks the cycle by being an exceptional mother to her children and
not abusing them. In contrast, CSA can cause a mother to become distant, hostile,
passive, withdrawn, and preoccupied furthermore, because they are preoccupied with
their past experiences they are unable to effectively care for their child or tend to the
relationships with those closest to them (Duncan 268). Because of the mothers situation,
this takes away from the infant development, how can the child develop to their full
potential if mommy is suffering from depression, guilt, anxiety, and PTSD. Its not that
they do it on purpose, some mothers may be too afraid to care for a young child. They
probably think how can I care for this young person if I cant mend myself? More
importantly if they are experiencing self-blame and guilt they may feel as though they are
not capable of being a caregiver or the nurturing figure that a mother should be.
Unfortunately the cycle of abuse may not stop with the child; there are instances when
the mother becomes re-victimized in the event they end up in an abusive relationship
during their adult years. It is possible that because of feelings of worthlessness, doubt,
and self-blame they feel as though they dont recognize theyre in a useless relationship
until its too late. In addition, a confusion of trust can affect the mother and the child if
she is in a relationship with a perpetrator when they begin trusting the wrong people or

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not trusting the right people (Duncan 269). At this point the mother either
unintentionally allows her child to be abused by her partner, intentionally allows her
partner to abuse her child, or either mistreats her child primarily in the form of neglect
because she doesnt have a solid relationship with those around her. If she doesnt trust
her family and friends she may not have an outlet for her pain and trauma thus neglecting
her child or repeating the abuse that happened to her. Similarly if she places her trust in
the wrong hands her child is then lost in the cycle of abuse. Sexual abuse has the power
and direction to lead a promising mother into the cycle of abuse as she loses her nurturing
mentality to one of fear, grief, and anxiety.
Initially I was curious as to why certain victims of child abuse grow up and abuse
others. I found afterwards that an underwhelming percentage of individuals continue the
cycle of abuse. It is believed that mainly adult victims of child abuse are the main
perpetrators later on in life; however, they are just more likely to be reported and
referenced to in the cycle of abuse. From there I examined the strain abuse has on
relationships, recovery, and parenting. There is no definite answer or reason as to why
certain individuals become victimizers instead of survivors. Its important to realize that
people overcome their struggles and adversity in different ways and that the cycle of
abuse isnt infinite and that the generational episodes of abuse like a series will have a
finale as the victim overcomes his/her trials and suffering and becomes a survivor.