Emotional Abuse

Excessive verbal assaults (belittling, screaming, threats, blaming, sarcasm), unpredictable responses (inconsistency), continual negative moods, constant family discord and double-message communication are examples of ways parents may subject their children to emotional abuse.

Emotional abuse may be suspected if:

  • Child is withdrawn, depressed and apathetic.
  • "Acts out", and is considered a "behavior problem".
  • Is overly rigid in conforming to instruction of teachers, doctors, and other adults.
  • Displays other signs of emotional turmoil (repetitive, rhythmic movements, inordinate attention to details; no verbal or physical communications with others).
  • Unwittingly makes comments such as, "Daddy always tells me I'm bad".

Emotional Deprivation

Emotional deprivation should be suspected if the child:

  • Refuses to eat adequate amounts of food and is thus very frail.
  • Is not thriving in general (unable to perform normal learned functions for a given age, e.g., walking, talking, etc.).
  • Displays antisocial behavior (aggression, disruption) or obvious "delinquent" behavior (drug abuse, vandalism); conversely, the child may be abnormally unresponsive, sad or withdrawn.
  • Constantly "seeks out" and "pesters" other adults (such as teachers, neighbors, etc.) for attention and affection.
  • Displays exaggerated fears.


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