Emotional Child Abuse
By: Goddess Johnson
The term emotional child abuse didn't even exist when I was growing up. But that didn't change the devastating outcome--the effects were severe, ever-present, and followed me into adulthood. Emotional abuse is the cornerstone of all the abuses because emotional abuse is always present during physical child abuse, child neglect, and sexual child abuse, and it is the only abuse that can stand on its own. It does not have to accompany any of the other abuses. What Is Emotional Abuse?
Emotional child abuse is defined as the constant attack of a child or youth by an adult that negatively affects the child or youth's self-worth. It is important to note here the word 'constant'. With emotional abuse, the child/youth receives only negative messages, nothing positive. Emotional child abuse is maltreatment which results in impaired psychological growth and development. It involves words, actions, and indifference Abusers constantly reject, ignore, belittle, dominate, and criticize the victims. This form of abuse may occur with or without physical abuse, but there is often an overlap. Examples of emotional child abuse are verbal abuse;
a.excessive demands on a child’s performance;
b. penalizing a child for positive, normal behavior (smiling, mobility, exploration, vocalization, manipulation of objects); c. discouraging caregiver and infant attachment;
d.penalizing a child for demonstrating signs of positive self-esteem; e.penalizing a child for using interpersonal skills needed for adequate performance in school and peer groups. In addition frequently exposing children to family violence and unwillingness or inability to provide affection or stimulation for the child in the course of daily care may also result in emotional abuse. How is it identified?
Although emotional abuse can hurt as much as physical abuse, it can be harder to identify because the marks are left on the inside instead of the outside. Not surprising, there exist few well-validated measures of childhood emotional abuse. Clinicians can use a revised version of the Child Abuse and Trauma Scale (CATS) which targets measures for emotional abuse. Caregivers can also closely observe children’s behaviors and personalities. Children suffering from emotional abuse are often extremely loyal to the parent, afraid of being punished if they report abuse, or think that this type of abuse is a normal way of life. Behavioral indicators of an emotionally abused child include inappropriate behavior that is immature or more mature for the child’s age, dramatic behavioral changes (disruption of activities, clinging or compulsively seeking affection and attention), aggressiveness, uncooperativeness, bedwetting or loss of bowel control (after a child has been trained), and destructive or antisocial behavior (being constantly withdrawn and sad). Furthermore, poor relationships with peers, lack of self confidence, unusual fears for the child’s age (fear of going home, being left alone, specific objects), or inability to react with emotion or develop an emotional bond with others are also indicators. Why Does It Happen?
Emotional abuse can, and does, happen in all types of families, regardless of their background. Most parents want the best for their children. They may emotionally abuse their children because the parents or caregivers were emotionally abused themselves as children. Most emotional abuse occurs for many of the same reasons that physical abuse occurs. Parents are vulnerable to becoming involved in maltreatment if stresses in their lives build up or if they are unable to manage these stresses. They may also have diminished capacity for understanding and dealing with children (mental retardation, psychopathology, alcoholism, drug abuse), false ideas about children’s needs, or sadistic psychosis.1 Nevertheless, a single factor may not lead to abuse, but in combination they can create the social and emotional pressures that...
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