Emotional abuse

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Unlike physical abuse emotional abuse does not leave scar or bruises, yet it is a type of domestic violence that is crippling. Emotional abuse includes anything from verbal abuse and constant criticism to more subtle tactics, such as repeated disapproval or even the refusal to ever be pleased.


Why should I be aware of this?

As a result of emotional abuse, victims become convinced that they are worthless. They continue to remain in abusive situations because they believe they have nowhere else to go. Their ultimate fear is being all alone. Children who experience such types of abuse regularly are at risk of growth delays, even when provided with adequate nutrition. They are also are more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety and low self-esteem; and are more prone to aggressive behavior. The effects of the abuse can even extend up to adulthood and lead to physical problems later in life.

Because of the lack of physical evidence, many — if not most — cases of emotional abuse go unrecognized.

All about emotional abuse

Unlike physical and sexual abuse, emotional abuse is extremely difficult to define and almost impossible to prove. What may be abuse in one culture may be an acceptable form child rearing practice in the other.

Often there is a very thin line between discipline and abuse. According to child abuse experts, the line is crossed when parents’ behavior makes a child feel worthless, flawed, unloved or endangered. Examples of such acts are threatening to abandon a child or to hurt the child physically, even if the intention to carry out the act is not there.

Abuse by parents

Parents cause emotional injury when they

  • Refuse to look after the children’s needs and do not accept their worth. This is an active form of neglect.
  • Fail to give children the needed stimulus by not involving themselves in their activities. This passive form of neglect subverts a child’s emotional growth.
  • Make inappropriate criticism, humiliate, ridicule or accuse, and thereby undermine a child's self esteem.
  • Assault the child verbally by use of abusive language. Parents, by screaming and shouting, create an atmosphere of fear, making the child anxious and insecure.
  • Prevent children from making friends by hindering the normal socialization process.
  • They are chronic alcohol or drug abusers, or prone to domestic violence.

What can I do

Experts advise against attempts to change too many behavior at one time but attend to the ones that create serious problems. Efforts should be made to forge a strong parent-child relationship. Once this is done, half the battle is won.


  • Rules, not emotional abuse
  • Emotional abuse is difficult to define