Emotional abuse is a pattern of behavior that can seriously interfere with a child’s positive development, psyche and self-concept. 7.6% of all substantiated child abuse cases are the result of emotional abuse.* Emotional abuse is hard to identify due to no physical evidence.
There are several types of emotional abuse:
* Rejection and Ignoring – Telling a child in a variety of ways that he or she is unwanted, having a lack of attachment, showing no interest, not initiating or returning affection, and/or not listening to the child. Not validating feelings. Breaking promises. Cutting the child off while he or she is speaking. Pretending to hear concerns, but then disregard them.
* Shame and Humiliation –Telling a child he or she is stupid, etc. or evoking criticism when performance is not perfect. Judging what the child does as wrong, inferior, or worthless. Using reproaches such as “You should be ashamed of yourself,” or “Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about.” Pride is also a feeling that is often met with shameful condemnations, such as “Who do you think you are, Mr. Big Shot?”
* Terrorizing – Accusing, blaming, insulting, criticizing, punishing and threatening with abandonment, physical harm, or death. Sabotaging success by making unreasonable demands or labeling the person as a loser. Taking advantage of the person’s weakness or manipulating. Slandering.
* Isolating – Not allowing the child to engage with peers or activities, keeping a child in a room or small area, and not exposing the child to stimulation. Withholding information.
* Corrupting – Engaging children to witness or participate in criminal acts such as stealing, drug dealing etc. Telling lies to avoid justifying actions or ideas.
* Hiding his or her eyes
* Lowering his or her gaze
* Biting lips or tongue
* Forcing a smile
* Confusion or denial
* Feeling of nakedness, defeat, alienation or lack of worth
* Poor self-esteem
* Angry acts
* Alcohol or drug abuse
* Difficulty in relationships
* Eating disorders
* Sleep disorders/nightmares
* Speech disorders
* Developmental delays
* Nervous disorders or somatic symptoms
Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Children’s Bureau. (2010). Child Maltreatment 2009.