Emotional Abuse

Carol A Patterson, M.Ed.
Licensed Psychologist, Certified School Psychologist

What is emotional abuse?

Of all the types of abuse to children – physical, sexual and emotional – emotional abuse (or mental injury) is probably the least understood and the hardest to identify. Emotional abuse involves maltreatment that involves words, actions and/or indifference that leaves marks on the inside instead of the outside, attacking the child’s positive development, psyche and self concept. The victim can then become insecure, angry and withdrawn. This emotionally abusive treatment can also lead to poor self-esteem, destructive behavior, acting out behavior and even suicidal thinking, gestures and attempts.

Types of Emotional Abuse:

Several types of emotional abuse have been identified including the following:

  • 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.
  • 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 recognize the child’s presence. Many times the parent is physically there but emotionally unavailable.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
Excerpt taken from http://www.preventchildabuse.com