In a study funded by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, researchers found that children ages 0-6 require immediate evaluation and intervention to prevent long-lasting effects of being exposed to abusive environments. As at-risk and abused children enter preschool, educators play a key role in ensuring their young students have safe and loving environments to go home to. Knowing the signs of child abuse is the best way to protect preschool aged children. Spotting potential child abuse cases and reporting them promptly is the best way to advocate for these students that are often too frightened to sound the alarm bells.
Identifying child abuse cases is important to stop the abuse, but also to prevent long-lasting effects that can limit overall lifetime achievement. This study reviewed 42 previous studies relating to neglect or abuse of children ages 0-6. The over-arching theme was clear – when provided with prompt and effective intervention and care, preschool aged children are much better equipped to overcome exposure to unsafe and inhospitable environments and prevent their early childhood experiences from limiting their successes later in life.
Preschool children who have been neglected or emotionally abused exhibit a range of emotional and behavioral difficulties and adverse mother-child interactions that indicate these children require prompt evaluation and interventions, according to a systematic review by Aideen Mary Naughton, M.B., B.Ch., B.A.O., D.C.H., F.R.C.P.C.H., of Public Health Wales, Pontypool, England, and colleagues. (Online First)
A total of 42 studies of children age 0 to 6 years with confirmed neglect or emotional abuse who had emotional, behavioral, and developmental features recorded or for whom the carer-child interaction was documented were analyzed.
Key features in the child included aggression, withdrawal or passivity, developmental delay, poor peer interaction, and transition from ambivalent to avoidant insecure attachment pattern and from passive to increasingly aggressive behavior and negative self-representation. Emotional knowledge, cognitive function, and language deteriorate without intervention. Poor sensitivity, hospitality, criticism, or disinterest characterize maternal-child interactions.
“Lifelong consequences include physical and mental health problems; impairments in language, social, and communication skills; and severe effects on brain development and hormonal functioning.” The study concludes, “early intervention has the potential to change children’s lives.”