Effects of child abuse

It’s never too late to help a child. Child abuse and its effects are preventable. We can work together to stop abuse happening and support children who have been abused.

Worried about a child?

If you're worried about a child or young person, you can contact the NSPCC helpline for support and advice for free - call us on 0808 800 5000 or contact us online.

Children can contact Childline any time to get support themselves.

Get support

If we work together to stop abuse happening and provide support to children who have been abused, we can turn things around for a child at any stage of their development - so they can go on to lead happy and fulfilling lives.

Child abuse can take many forms. It can be emotional, physical, sexual or neglect. And it can happen to any child, in any family, in any place or online.

Abuse often happens over a period of time, rather than as a one-off event, and can have a devastating effect on a child's development and society as a whole.

Some of the effects child abuse can have include:

  • negative effects on a child’s health, relationships and education
  • adults who were abused as children may find it harder to cope with life's stresses, get a good job, or be a good parent
  • mental health problems, drug or alcohol issues, criminal behaviour – or showing signs of harmful behaviour themselves.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. We can all play our part in preventing abuse. And we can all help a child who’s experienced abuse to get their life back on track.

"I never thought I'd feel this happy again but with the right support you can carry on with your life."
Gemma

How we're working to support children

We help children to recover from abuse and get their lives back on track.

We equip parents and carers with the knowledge, skills and support they need to protect their children from abuse.

We run our helpline and Childline for any concerned adult or child to turn to for confidential support.

We teach children that abuse is never their fault, and they can always speak out and get help.

We stand up for children and demand that laws and rules need to change to protect them.

We are constantly striving to find the best ways to protect children and prevent abuse and share these with people who work with children  find out about our research on our website for professionals, NSPCC Learning.

How you can play your part

Abuse can be prevented – and each of us can play a role in the fight against it. Any act, big or small, can make a real difference to a child and create a safer society for all children.

Whether you support one of our campaigns, volunteer for our servicestake part in an event to raise funds or simply be aware of the signs that a child may need help, your contribution will help us be there for more children in need.

Why does abuse happen?

Severe cases of problems such as poverty, drug or alcohol addiction or mental health issues can overload our capacity to care for children and can lead to a child being abused or neglected.

That's not to say difficult circumstances inevitably lead to abuse, or that abuse can ever be excused. But these circumstances do make it more likely to happen. By giving families the right support at the right time – from counselling or good foster care to a helping hand from a neighbour – we can help them manage these problems and give a child a more stable platform to grow up.

More about child abuse

Non-recent abuse

Find out about the support available to adults who were abused as children.

Learn more

Spotting the signs of abuse

We can help you to recognise the signs of child abuse, so that if you see them, you can share your concerns with us.

 

Learn more

Alice's story

Alice feels like she lost her childhood to abuse, it affected many areas of her life. We helped her go to court so that she could move on.

Read Alice's story

Work or volunteer with children and families?

Visit NSPCC Learning for information, resources and training to help you respond to child abuse and neglect and protect children and young people across the UK.

Go to NSPCC Learning

Children's mental health

Get advice on recognising and giving support for mental health problems in children and young people.

Learn more

Healthy sexual behaviour

Learn more about what healthy sexual behaviour looks like for children and young people, and when there could be signs that something is not right.

Learn more

Talk PANTS with your child

Help your child keep themselves safe by teaching them the PANTS rules, with some help from our friendly dinosaur, Pantosaurus. They're especially designed for children aged 4-8.

Learn more