Emotional abuse of a child is commonly defined as a pattern of behavior by parents or caregivers that can seriously interfere with a child’s cognitive, emotional, psychological or social development. Emotional abuse of a child — also referred to as psychological maltreatment — can include: – Ignoring. Either physically or psychologically, the parent or caregiver is not present to respond to the child. He or she may not look at the child and may not call the child by name. – Rejecting. This is an active refusal 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. – 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… – Verbally assaulting. This involves constantly belittling, shaming, ridiculing or verbally threatening the child. – Terrorizing. Here, the parent or caregiver threatens or bullies the child and creates a climate of fear for the child. – Neglecting the child. This abuse may include educational neglect, where a parent or caregiver fails or refuses to provide the child with necessary educational services; mental health neglect, where the parent or caregiver denies or ignores a child’s need for treatment for psychological problems; or medical neglect, where a parent or caregiver denies or ignores a child’s need for treatment for medical problems. While the definition of emotional abuse is often complex and imprecise, professionals agree that, for most parents, occasional negative attitudes or actions are not considered emotional abuse. What is truly harmful, according to James Garbarino, a national expert on emotional abuse, is the persistent, chronic pattern that “erodes and corrodes a child”. Most parents want the best for their children. However, some parents may emotionally and psychologically harm their children because of stress, poor parenting skills, social isolation, lack of available resources or inappropriate expectations of their children. They may emotionally abuse their children because the parents or caregivers were emotionally abused themselves as children.
“The difficult child is the child who is unhappy. He is at war with himself; and in consequence, he is at war with the world.” – A. S. Neill