Mental and emotional abuse of children

When it comes to damage, there is no real difference between physical, sexual and emotional abuse. All that distinguishes one from the other is the abuser’s choice of weapons.” Andrew Vachss *

“Whatever the type of violence committed against a child, it is about a behavior from parents or other caregivers, which is detrimental to the child  and prevents the development of a positive self-image in the child. Any form of violence brings the child’s development and health in danger.” The Danish Social Agency’s (Socialstyrelsen) Violence Network


What is emotional abuse?

Emotional abuse of a child is a pattern of behavior that can seriously interfere with the child’s positive development, psyche and self-image. Due to lack of physical evidence, it is difficult to identify.

Emotional abuse and neglect can be:

Absence of love and affection
absence of hugs and kisses;
absence of emotional and psychological support to the child;
absence of reconciliation and forgiveness

Rejection and ignorance
through no initiatives or responses to emotions;
failure to act in the interest of the child;
lack of listening to the child;
failure to act with respect for the child’s feelings, broken promises;
disconnection of the child when it speaks;
lack of positive feedback;
lack of joint activities with the child;
expulsion the child through irritation from the child’s presence

Shame and humiliation 
constant criticism of everything the child does;
denigration and mockery of the child’s efforts;
denigration of what the child says;
denigration of the child’s attitudes, friends and interests;
denigration of the child’s gender and identity;
constant reproaches

Psychological terror
repeated violations of the child’s boundaries;
sabotage of the child’s success by unreasonable demands;
blaming the child for the adult’s behavior;
physical violence;
yelling and screaming at the child;
defamation of the child;
exposure of the child to injustice and unreasonable terms;
speaking negatively about the child to others, while the child listens;
prohibiting the toddler’s/child’s babbling and chatter, spontaneity and play;
demonstrating passive aggressiveness towards the child

preventing the child from being with peers;
failure to stimulate the child;
failure to respond appropriately to the child;
absence of mutual conversation with the child;
isolation of the child in a small space;
cutting the child from fellowship and shared activities


Symptoms of emotional and psychological abuse

The child:

  • hiding his or her eyes, lowering his or her gaze
  • biting of lips or tongue
  • forcing a smile, strained expression
  • is unhappy and withdrawn
  • is apathetic
  • displays aggression
  • has poor self-esteem
  • incontinence
  • isolates himself/herself socially
  • has emotional problems such as depression, anxiety and somatic symptoms
  • escapes/flees
  • increased suicidal tendency
  • eating disorders
  • sleep disorders
  • is hampered in their development
  • develops alcohol and drug abuse
  • has problems in adult life with job and family


Parenting and AS Autism disorder

By definition of the disorder, those parents on the autism spectrum may obviously have serious limitations in parenting skills. A parent with AS Autism, for example, is unable to show natural empathy, comfort and compassion; can neglect the child’s needs due to limited ability to read the child’s signals; may lack adult impulse control over themselves, including over their own anxiety and meltdowns; may react aggressively due to sensory overload as a result of the influence of the children’s normal activities; may cause other family members to have constant fear of aggressive reactions as a result of a meltdown; can easily violate the child’s boundaries because the parent with AS/ Autism disorder does not understand the child’s needs and cannot read the child’s feelings and signals.

The Danish cites some examples of psychological abuse:

If the child is ignored; has witnessed physical violence in the home; or is cared for by parents who cannot really read the child’s signals and violate the child’s boundaries again and again.

Limitation of one parent’s parenting skills does not mean that abuse actually occurs in the specific family.

Note *: Andrew Vachss is an American writer, lawyer and protector of children from harm and abuse. As a lawyer, he represents exclusively, children and adolescents. He is the founder of The National Association to Protect Children.


Also read: Children of a Parent with ASD / Asperger’s syndrome
                The Burden on NT Spouses and Children, OTRS
                High conflict divorce and Asperger’s syndrome: ©

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