The Psychological Effects of Sexual Abuse on Regional Brain Development in Children
Johnson, Jilia V.
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For children who witness or experience neglect, emotional abuse, physical abuse, or sexual abuse in the years of early childhood, the chances of developing mental ailments such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Developmental Trauma Disorder (DTD) and Oppositional Defiant Behavior (ODD) are increased. Considering that neglect and childhood sexual abuse are two of the most detrimental experiences to children’s brain development, the majority of research has shown how a child’s brain is the first to be changed after continuous exposure to emotional and physical threat. After being confronted with and surviving sexual abuse, a child’s subcortical brain regions undergo serious changes affecting their personality, mental wellness, biological processes, and hormonal distribution throughout adolescence and early adulthood. Though there are different types of sexual abuse and can range in severity, cognitive behavior therapies have been shown to strengthen beliefs and perceptions about one’s self through identifying positive coping mechanisms to better regulate their emotions and behavior. In the following pages, literature from psychologists will thoroughly analyze how some began to theorize brain development in terms of traumatic sexual experiences during the early ages of childhood in various brain regions.