Impact of Abuse on Adolescents

As children move into the adolescent stage, the impact of the abuse they witness changes. When this occurs, the behaviours they exhibit modify accordingly.


The Impact of Abuse on Adolescents

Teenagers may show signs of the following:

  • Escapist, self-destructive behaviour
  • Approval seeking behaviour
  • Withdrawn, passive, compliant, clinging behaviour
  • Running away from home
  • Promiscuity
  • Suicidal thoughts and actions
  • Homicidal thoughts and actions
  • Criminal activities such as drug use, mischief and theft
  • Low frustration tolerance or infinite patience


Effects on Adolescent Women:

As the daughter of an abusive man enters puberty, she may begin to be treated like a second wife. His jealousies and excessive use of control, usually reserved for his wife, may now be directed towards his daughter.

She may hate her own body and feel confused about her sexuality (being female = being like mom = being punished). She may become sexually promiscuous or withdraw and completely deny her sexuality.


Effects on Adolescent Men:

A young man in a violent environment may try to become his mother's protector while his father is in the home. Ironically, if the father leaves the home, this same son often moves into his father's role and abuses his mother if he feels she is "stepping out of line." This most often happens with the eldest child; sometimes if a daughter is the eldest child, she will adopt this role.

The young man may hate his own body and feel confused about his sexuality (being male = being like Dad = being mean and abusive). He may become sexually promiscuous (sons are often encouraged by fathers to "sow their wild oats") or he might withdraw and completely avoid contact with the opposite sex.