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What is Emotional Abuse?

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emotional abuse of childrenWhat is emotional abuse?

Emotional abuse, which is 8% of all substantiated cases of child abuse, is commonly defined as the systematic tearing down of another human being. It is considered a pattern of behavior that can seriously interfere with a child's positive development. Emotional abuse is probably the least understood of all child abuse, yet it is the most prevalent, and can be the cruelest and most destructive of all types of abuse.

Because emotional abuse attacks the child's psyche and self-concept, the victim comes to see him or herself as unworthy of love and affection. Children who are constantly shamed, humiliated, terrorized or rejected suffer at least as much, if not more, than if they had been physically assaulted.

An infant who is being severely deprived of basic emotional nurturing, even though physically well cared for, can fail to thrive and can eventually die. Less severe forms of early emotional deprivation may produce babies who grow into anxious and insecure children who are slow to develop or who might have low self-esteem.

Types of Emotional Abuse:

1] Rejecting -- Parents who lack the ability to bond will often display rejecting behavior toward a child. They tell a child in a variety of ways that he or she is unwanted. They may also tell the child to leave, call him or her names and tell the child he or she is worthless. They may not talk to or hold the young child as he or she grows. The child may become the family scapegoat, being blamed for all the family's problems.

2] Ignoring -- Adults who have had few of their emotional needs met are often unable to respond to the needs of their children. They may not show attachment to the child or provide nurturance. They may show no interest in the child, express affection or even recognize the child's presence. Many times the parent is physically there but emotionally unavailable.

3] Terrorizing -- Parents may single out one child to criticize and punish. They may ridicule him or her for displaying normal emotions and have expectations far beyond his or her normal abilities. The child may be threatened with death, mutilation or abandonment.

4] Isolating -- A parent who abuses a child through isolation may not allow the child to engage in appropriate activities with his or her peers; may keep a baby in his or her room, not exposed to stimulation; or may prevent teenagers from participating in extracurricular activities. Parents may require the child to stay in his or her room from the time school lets out until the next morning, or restrict eating to isolation or seclusion.

5] Corrupting -- Parents permit children to use drugs or alcohol; to watch cruel behavior toward animals; to watch pornographic materials and adult sex acts; or to witness or participate in criminal activities such as stealing, assault, prostitution, gambling, etc.

What are the effects of emotional abuse?

Other types of abuse are usually identifiable because marks or other physical evidence  is left, however, emotional abuse can be very hard to diagnose or even to define. In some instances, an emotionally abused child will show no signs of abuse. For this reason, emotional abuse is the most difficult form of child maltreatment to identify and stop. This type of abuse leaves hidden scars that manifest themselves in numerous ways. Insecurity, poor self-esteem, destructive behavior, angry acts (such as fire setting or cruelty to animals), withdrawal, poor development of basic skills, alcohol or drug abuse, suicide and difficulty forming relationships can all be possible results of emotional abuse.

Article provided by: http://www.preventchildabuse.com/emotion.htm

The US government describes: Signs of Emotional Maltreatment

Consider the possibility of emotional maltreatment when the child:

  • Shows extremes in behavior, such as overly compliant or demanding behavior, extreme passivity, or aggression
  • Is either inappropriately adult (parenting other children, for example) or inappropriately infantile (frequently rocking or head-banging, for example)
  • Is delayed in physical or emotional development
  • Has attempted suicide
  • Reports a lack of attachment to the parent

Consider the possibility of emotional maltreatment when the parent or other adult caregiver:

  • Constantly blames, belittles, or berates the child
  • Is unconcerned about the child and refuses to consider offers of help for the child's problems
  • Overtly rejects the child

Robyn's Nest Related Articles:
Shaken Baby Syndrome
Sexual Abuse of Children
Missing Children
Child Abuse and Shaken Baby State Resources
Anger vs. Abuse
Baby Abandonment (Infanticide)

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