Physical abuse is thought to be influential on a child’s own aggressive behavior through several learning processes, but emotional responses are also likely to be at work. Good caretaking might be part of the average expectable environment because of the need for the child to feel secure. Maslow (1943) suggests that harsh parenting invokes a panic in children beyond any physical pain that might be inflicted because it indicates a lack of safety and a lack of love.
Abused children endure a wide variety of adverse outcomes. Maltreatment is thought to disrupt the mastery of important developmental tasks which “sets into motion a sequence of developmental alterations that continues to impair adaptation well into the future” (Wolfe, Wekerle, & McGee, 1992, p. 36). Thornberry,
Ireland, and Smith (2001) report that maltreatment is associated with a wide array of problems in late adolescence including alcohol problems, depressive symptoms, internalizing, externalizing, teen pregnancy, and school dropout in the Rochester Youth Development Study. Abused children scored lower on cognitive maturity and much higher on “total behavior problems” in data from the Harvard Child Maltreatment Project (Trickett, Aber, Carlson, & Cicchetti, 1991). Other problems that have been empirically associated with physical punishment and various forms of abuse include socioemotional problems (Eamon, 2001), reduced attachment and agency, distractability, and poor ego functioning (Egeland, Sroufe, & Erickson, 1983; Erickson, Egeland, & Pianta, 1989; Wolfe et al., 1992), low IQ, and problems relating to peers (Erickson et al., 1989; Jaffee & Maikovich-Fong, 2011).
Here we will focus on abuse as an antecedent to violent behavior.