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Emotional Abuse

  • 3 min read

What Is Emotional Abuse?

Emotional abuse of a child is commonly defined as any behavior by parents or caregivers that affect a child’s cognitive, emotional, psychological or social development. Emotional abuse of a child is also known as psychological maltreatment.


Ways Emotional Abuse Can be Displayed

A parent who is emotionally abusing a child may do any of the following things to the child:

  • Ignoring – This can be physical or psychological, the parent or caregiver is not present to respond to the child’s needs or requests.
  • Rejection – This is deliberately refusing to respond to a child’s needs (e.g., refusing to touch a child, denying the needs of a child, ridiculing a child).
  • Isolating – The parent or caregiver consistently prevents the child from having normal social interactions with peers, family members and adults. This also may include confining the child or limiting the child’s freedom of movement.
  • Exploiting or corrupting – In this kind of abuse, a child is taught, encouraged or forced to develop inappropriate or illegal behaviors. It may involve self-destructive or antisocial acts of the parent or caregiver, such as teaching a child how to steal or forcing a child into prostitution.
  • Verbally assaulting – This involves constantly belittling, shaming, ridiculing or verbally threatening the child.
  • Terrorizing – The parent or caregiver threatens or bullies the child and creates a climate of fear for the child. Terrorizing can include placing the child or the child’s loved one (such as a sibling, pet or toy) in a dangerous or chaotic situation, or placing rigid or unrealistic expectations on the child with threats of harm if they are not met.
  • Neglecting the child – This abuse may include educational neglect, mental health neglect, and medical neglect.


Signs of Emotional Abuse

A child who is being emotionally abused may behave in any of the following ways. These are often symptoms of emotional abuse, since unlike other type of abuse there is no physical mark or evidence on the child.

  • Feeling of depression
  • Withdrawal from social interaction
  • Isolation from friends and family
  • Low Self Esteem
  • Fearfulness
  • Increased anxiety
  • Guilty feeling
  • Feeling ashamed
  • Mood changes
  • Nervousness
  • Not trusting others
  • Placing blame on others
  • Self-blaming
  • Pessimistic behavior
  • Substance abuse
  • Extreme dependence on others
  • Avoiding eye-contact
  • Telling lies
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Emotional instability
  • Suicidal attempts


Dealing with Emotional Abuse

  • Understand the causes and effects of emotionally abusive relationships. Parents may be emotionally abusive because they were abused or neglected at some point in their lives, or because they are bitter, angry or resentful, and as a result, take their feelings out on their children. Parents may also be unaware of the fact that they are being abusive. Remember that you are not in any way responsible for the abuse; in the end, it is the abuser’s choice to abuse you.
  • Identify the ways you are being abused. This will help you explain it to someone else.
  • Identify the main abuser. Identify who your main abuser is, and the main ways you are abused. This will help you when telling somebody else, or when you try to improve the situation.
  • Know that the abuse may happen selectively – parent/s may treat one of their children worse than another, fostering bitterness, competition, and envy between siblings.
  • Understand that it’s not your fault. Although your abuser may influence you to feel personally responsible for his/her abusive behaviour.



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