Are those abused as children more likely to become abusive parents?

Apr 11, 2016
by: AlysaB
Black and white teddy bear

The subject of my research paper has evolved from looking into the history behind body language, to what sort of body language can help to identify an abuser, and now I've finally settled on the question of whether or not those abused as children are more likely to become abusive parents.

The vast majority of my research and statistics would say no, for the most part, they do not. According to a New York Times article, "Sad Legacy of Abuse: The Search for Remedies," about 1/3 of abused children went on to become abusive adults. This number was surprisingly small compared to what the researchers were expecting, and it should also be noted that this article was published in 1989. Today, several more recent studies have shown that upwards of 90% of abused children are still able to become wonderful parents. This is probably due to advancement in therapy as well as awareness on the subject.

It is accepted that child abuse or neglect can factor into whether or not the child continues to carry out violent behaviors in adulthood, however several other factors need to be taken into account. For instance, how young the child was when the abuse took place, how long they endured it and how long it took them to get help, if the abuse came from a parental figure or an outsider, etc, needs to be considered before jumping to the conclusion that their abuse shaped them as a person. In this article by Claudia Glenn Dowling, "Violence Lessons" she addresses these facts, and goes on to say that therapy and camps for children who have undergone abuse are overwhelmingly effective.

However, the main subject of that article was how young children in abusive homes begin to copy the acts of their parents if they grow up in a volatile home, especially if the siblings are of opposite sexes. Historically, the boy will begin to emulate the father while the girl will emulate the mother. This tends to result in the by taking on violent behaviors and the girl becoming more docile and playing the part of the victim. This led into another branch of my research that looks into the "Multiple Victimization" phenomena described in this article "Are You Dating an Abuser?" Essentially, those who have fallen into abusive relationships or were abused in the past actually tend to fall into more abusive relationships later.


Goleman, Daniel. "Sad Legacy Of Abuse: The Search For Remedies". The New York Times 1989. Web. 11 Apr. 2016.

Downing, Claudia Glenn. "Violence Lessons". Mother Jones 1998. Web. 11 Apr. 2016.

Stosny, Steven. "Are You Dating An Abuser?". Psychology Today 2008. Web. 11 Apr. 2016.


Interesting, fluid writing

Submitted by dominiquebird on Thu, 2016-04-14 12:07.

I loved your post, it is a controversial issue and it tends to be brought to the attention of everyone. Abuse is no joke and from studying it in the past we've developed advanced treatment and therapy because of it. You write very well and I like that your sources are cited neatly at the bottom. You made clear, coherent connections that helped guide the reader (myself) through your topic. One thing that I feel would improve your piece even more would be including more statistics. The ones you already have are fascinating and really caught my attention so I think adding more in there would give your post even more of a foundation :) great read!

Great topic

Submitted by vickysandoval on Sun, 2016-04-17 16:39.

I think that this an excellent research topic because many of us assume that those who were abused become abusers and that may stem from old adages along the lines of, "like father like son". In your summarized research I like how you specified when a certain article was written, because it may have mislead the reader otherwise. One thing you may want to consider looking into is the likelihood someone who is abused becoming an abuser depending on the abuse they experience (physical abuse, mental abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, etc.).