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What is emotional child abuse?

Happy children make happy and productive adults. Children need to feel wanted, loved, safe and valued. They need
constant attention, care and discipline. This care should be given from birth, through toddlerhood, puberty, and teenage
years. In fact even when we all men and women, we still need love and care and support from our families.

Parents and care-givers do not get it right every time. Sometimes they make mistakes, but that is not emotional abuse.
We say emotional abuse when there is a severe, deliberate (and sometimes unintentional) and persistent ill treatment
towards a child, which adversely affects a child's emotional health and development. Sometimes, it is too easy to tell that
a child is emotionally abused, unhappy and uninterested.

But sometimes, emotional abuse is not only actions, but spoken words too. Shouts, insults, yelling and threats can all hurt
the feeling of a child and affect them emotionally. Example, yelling out "You're a never-to-do-well-child!" or "You are so
stupid and a big failure" or "I have told you several times are you deaf or just brain dead?" These kinds of words should
never be said to anyone.

Did you know:

Domestic violence is also a form of physical abuse, even though the abuse is between two adults. The adults could be parents, married
couples, girlfriends and boyfriends and same-sex relationships. It can be very scary if a child (including teens) is caught up in domestic
abuse. The child can see and hear all the violent things going on and that can have huge impact on them.

Forms of emotional child abuse?

Emotional abuse come in many forms including:

This includes bad name calling, constant criticisms, refusing the child's hug, refusing the child to participate in family and
social activities, and making the child feel stupid and not needed.

This includes ignoring the child, no attention and care about her school and performance, no protection, no health or
dental care, and generally not paying attention to significant events in child's life

This includes yelling, cursing, scaring, using extremely harsh words, threats to send her away, kill her pet, ridiculing a child
in public and even forcing her to watch violent activities.

This includes preventing the child from making and playing with friends, leaving him/her for long periods, and keeping her

confined to read her books or do house chores.

This involves manipulation of the child and assigning responsibility to her, with huge consequences. For example, in some
villages, a child on a farm could be asked to do all the farm work, get the produce sold and prepare dinner for the family,
with no rest or reward.

This includes rewarding the child for doing wrong things like duping someone, or pick-pocketing, using a substance or
performing a sexual activity. It also includes teaching them racism and to become bias towards someone's religion or

ethnicity .

What are the causes of emotional abuse.

1. Parenting Skills:
Many abusing parents had bad experiences as children and tend to do likewise to their kids. When parents (especially
teenage parents) are not mature and prepared for children, they tend to be childish towards their kids too. Many people
think they are great parents, but the art of raising children in love and harmony is something that needs periodic learning.
As kids grow, their needs and behaviors change, and parents must learn to cope with the various phases of their lives.

2. Poverty:
In many cases, children with learning disabilities, isolated kids, kids from very poor or broken homes can also fall victim to
abusers. For example, male adults can offer to help a needy teenage girl, and take advantage of them to sexually abuse
them. Children with low IQ or sense of judgement can also give in easily to sexual predators, and be quiet about it for a
long time.

3. Substance abuse:
Usually a caregiver under drugs or alcohol addiction (substance abuse) is more likely to violate a child. This is because
under drug influence, the abuser will loose their sense of judgement and say inappropriate things that they normally would
not. They may also ignore a child and not care about their well being.

4. Mental Illness:
Mental illness comes in many forms. Even though an adult may look fine and happy, there may be times that the illness
can take control. Certain mental illnesses can cause anger, and the adult can be under an illusion that the child is up
against them. The result is that they are very hard and harsh on the children. In relation to sexual abuse, some abusers
have mental problems and see themselves as kids too. This mental condition is called pedophilia. A person suffering from
pedophilia is called a pedophile.

5. Extreme Expectations:
Some adults expect too much from children. It is very easy to think that children know everything. For example, a four
year old may cry over something that she cannot easily express. Continuous crying can easlily upset a caregiver, and
result in insults and verbal abuse. This is also true for teenagers. Some parents forget that their teenage kids are still
learning, and treat them with insults, swear words, inappropriate words and punishments.

6. Stress:
People easily loose temper and patience when under stress. We all do get angry once in a while. This anger can be
frequent if a caregiver is under stress all the time. Stress from marital break-ups and family disputes, financial difficulties,
pressure from work, domestic abuse can result in extreme behavior and anger towards their kids, particularly toddlers and
little children. This is also true of children born out of unwanted pregnancies.

What are the signs of emotional child abuse?

It is never easy to link the physical signs of an emotionally abused child to a direct cause of negative verbal and
psychological treatment. Signs of emotional abuse in children and young people can manifest in many ways.

Below are a few.

Emotional Child Indicators:

Low self-confidence/poor self-image, withdrawn and detached (difficulty forming relationships).
Unable in trust/fearful, low empathy.
Anxious and depressed.

Uninterested / low perseverance, delayed emotionally, socially and/or academically.

Frightened for no obvious reasons, feelings of shame and guilt .
You can also find that the child is
always crying.
avoiding eye contact.
suffers from sleep, speech disorders and demonstrates compulsions, obsessions, phobias, hysterical outbursts.
inappropriately aggressive, destructive or cruel to others and often says negative statements about himself/herself.
does not participate in activities or experiences.

Older children may begin to use alcohol or abuse drugs. Some may also try to find comfort with strangers and end up
illegal sex activities.

Care giver or parent (adult) Indicators

Treat children from the same family differently.
Finds nothing good or positive in the child.
Blames child for everything, and belittles the child.
Is cold and rejecting and not easily approachable.
Withholds love.
Not bothered much about the childs problems.

Effects of emotional child abuse.

Usually, children can exhibit the signs below. Love, care, support and
attention given to children can affect affect them positively at infancy,
through adolescence, and into adulthood.

One study using ACE data found that roughly 54% of cases of depression and 58% of
suicide attempts in women were connected to adverse childhood experiences
(Felitti & Anda, 2009)
Child Wellfare Information Gateway

This means that the opposite (abuse) will harm them as they grown and
continual abuse can have catastrophic consequences for the victim in
adulthood. This is because:

A child living in continuous fear and sorrow cannot eat well to grow
well. They will be vulnerable to diseases and health complications.

Emotional abuse can hold back a childs mental development. Their

intelligence and memory development can be affected, and result in mental
problems and disorders.

Emotionally, they are unable to feel and express a full range of

emotions appropriately, and to control their emotions. This is so because their emotional development has been badly
compromised, and cannot feel things like normal people should.

There is a greater risk of developing one or more behavioural problems. These may include learning difficulties,
relationships problems, difficulty with socialising, rebellious, aggressive and violent behaviour, criminality and even not
bothered about your own self.

Emotional child abuse prevention tips

These tips are usually directed to the abusers (adults), because no child, no matter what, deserves to be abused in
any way, shape or form. Unfortunately, many abusers do not know or do not deliberately go out of they way to
abuse a child. It happens largely out of broken self control. This is why families should look out for each other and

help out when members are in difficulty.

Below are a few tips:

Society should invest in Public awareness of the issue and create supportive communities.
A parent with stress and difficulty should seek assistance from the appropriate services.
Parents and care givers should undertake parenting skills courses to learn more on how to deal with growing
Families must pay attention to the needs of children, and the larger family should get involved with the
activities of children.
Parents that abuse drugs and alcohol should get help and stay away from such behaviors, so that their anger
control is not impaired.

Tips for parents

Do not be afraid to apologize to a child. If you lose your temper and say something in anger that wasnt meant
to be said, be quick to apologize. It can help restore confidence and trust.
A child deserves respect. Avoid calling them discouraging names like "Hey Fatty-Lazy-Baby" or "You are the
Black Sheep of the family" or "Good for nothing"
Disciplinary actions should be targeted to a specific wrong behavior rather than to punish or humiliate him or
her. Tell them why you gave "Time out" before and after the disciplinary action.
Praise them and reward them for good behavior.
An old trick is to count 10 and breathe in and out 10 times anytime you face a very annoying situation involving
a child. You can also walk away from a situation when you feel you are losing control. This can calm you down and
help you to think again before acting. The result of this is usually very positive and effective.

How to help emotionally abused kids.

Many children are lucky to have have caring parents. Always keep contact with other trusted adults apart from your
parents. This could be your doctor or school nurse, pastor or close family friend. You can have their telephone numbers
hidden in your school cupboard and another hidden at home. This way you can call and get help if you think you are being

No child deserves to be abused. Call the police, or your teacher immediately. There may be local agencies or committees
that handle children issues. Speak to them immediately.

Look out for your younger brothers and sisters, and help them at home so that your mum or dad is not always tired and
stressed from working and caring for them. You can offer to feed them and bathe them, and help them with homework.

Finally, keep good friends and share good ideas with each other (for teenagers). If you have a problem, you can tell them
and they can give you advice too.

Here are some important facts on emotional child abuse.

Every 6 hours a child dies in the United States due to abuse or neglect in the USA.

In 2005, 1,460 children died from abuse or neglect, with about 64,000 also psychologically or emotionally abused.

Children below the age of 4 are usually the most victimized.

Children who have been abused or neglected are 60% more likely to be arrested as juveniles and /or end up as

Child emotional abuse happens in all ethnic groups, all over the world. Some societies have it more as a result of the
past child up-bringing techniques. Some societies to are less tolerant and have very strict laws for violators.

Did you know:

Domestic violence is also a form of physical abuse, even though the abuse is between two adults. The adults could be parents, married
couples, girlfriends and boyfriends and same-sex relationships. It can be very scary if a child (including teens) is caught up in domestic
abuse. The child can see and hear all the violent things going on and that can have huge impact on them.