Emotional child abuse
Emotional abuse, also known as psychological abuse, is the most common type of child abuse.
Emotional abuse is when an adult deliberately and repeatedly causes a child emotional distress.
Emotional abuse can include:
- forcing a child to be humiliated or to perform a degrading act
- scaring or causing a child to be fearful
- rejecting or telling a child they are worthless, unwanted or unloved
- undermining, blaming, scapegoating
- constant criticism or unrealistic expectations
- name calling, threats, making fun of the child
- isolating a child from opportunities to learn, interactions with others
- withholding attention, ignoring or never showing affection
- exposure to distressing events including family and domestic violence, other types of violence and drug use
Often if a child is being emotionally abused they may also be suffering physical or sexual abuse or neglect.
Signs of emotional child abuse
Signs that a child is being emotionally abused include:
- lack of apparent connection with parents
- overly affectionate or clingy with strangers
- anxious or extra vigilant disposition
- emotional outbursts
- problems interacting with other children appropriately
- other symptoms of child abuse.
The impacts of emotional abuse can be long-term and cause serious harm to a child’s health, wellbeing and development.
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Find out more
For more information on child abuse, including the information on reporting child abuse, please refer to the DHHS website.