This article discusses the detrimental effects that abuse can have on a child’s neurological activity.
Children who are abused physically and psychologically show vehement neuronal excitation when observing pictures of angry faces. Children who are not victims of abuse do not experience such outrageous levels of neurological arousal when shown pictures of angry faces. Research conducted at the Child Emotion Research Laboratory suggests that the brains of abused are wired differently from those of kids who were not abused. Perhaps this is because the abused child develops a more acute set of survival skills.
The brain is simply adapting (or more accurately, mal-adapting) to the child’s environment. If the child is constantly being abused the brain is going to adapt itself to the abusers emotional patterns in order to maintain the child’s well being. The brain becomes ultra sensitive to the abuser’s facial expressions to alert the child when danger is near. According to the article, however, this increased activity can have negative effects on the abused child’s development.
The child becomes so sensitized to anger, which may cause he or she to perceive anger when it does not actually exist. The question that comes to my mind is this: Are playground bullies on bullies because they falsely perceive anger or some other threatening emotion simply because of at home abuse? I believe this article is trying to demonstrate that the environment plays a primary role in our brains overall development and functioning. Interestingly enough, when abused and non-abused children are shown fearful and happy faces their brain wave responses were quite similar. Only when the children were shown angry faces did the abused children have dramatically greater and longer lasting brain wave arousal.
It makes sense that abused children have higher levels of brain stimulation when viewing angry face because that is what is “normal” to them. I would think that these children would experience lower levels of arousal when viewing a happy face especially if happy expressions in the home are few and far between. The article also points out that the endocrine suffers more in maltreated children. Hormonal differences, such as cortisol have been found to be higher at certain times of the day in abused children as compared to non-abused children.
It seems obvious that this hyperactivity occurring in abused children’s brain could lead to very serious emotional disorders and possibly even death. We must look on the positive side and hope that future research will be better able to understand why these biological changes occur in abused children.