What is emotional abuse?

Emotional abuse can be harder to detect than the other types of abuse and may need to be assessed over a period of time through monitoring the child’s behaviour with the responses of the carers towards the child.

Emotional abuse may be experienced at any age just as the other types of abuse. It may be experienced on its own but very often in combination with other types of abuse. It may also be experienced in isolation as a one off but is more likely to be experienced over a longer period of time.

The adverse effects of emotional abuse can have a significant impact on all areas of the child’s development, mental health and self esteem. It is also important to consider the possibility of bullying and racism within the context of emotional harm.

Indicators of Emotional Abuse might include:

  • Physical, mental and emotional developmental delays
  • Needy or clingy
  • Difficulty with genuine trust, intimacy and affection
  • Negative, hopeless and negative view of self, family and society
  • Lack of empathy, compassion and remorse
  • Low self esteem, deference and resignation
  • Change in appetite
  • Extremes of passivity and aggression
  • Poor concentration
  • Difficulty making friends
  • Sudden speech disorders
  • Unexplained fear, defensiveness, ambivalence
  • Emotional withdrawal
  • Sleep disturbance
  • Carer constantly rejects and ignores the child, depriving them of responsiveness and stimulation
  • Carer isolates the child and prevents them building relationships and making friends
  • Carer shows little warmth and affection towards the child
  • Carer constantly criticises or humiliates the child and appears unable to give praise

If you would like to know more please take a look at our Introduction to Child Protection training course.