Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse or psychological abuse, also referred to as psychological neglect, is a pattern of behavior that impairs a child or youth’s emotional development or sense of self-worth. This may include constant criticism, threats or rejection, as well as withholding love, support or guidance.

Example Behaviors That Would Be Concerning

The persistent, marked inattention to the child’s needs for affection, emotional support or attention.

The exposure to chronic or extreme spousal abuse or other domestic violence.

Denying a child the ability to interact or to communicate with peers or adults outside or inside the home.

Signs and Behaviors of the Child or Youth

  • Shows extremes in behavior, such as overly compliant or demanding behavior, extreme passivity or aggression
  • Is either inappropriately adult (parenting other children, for example), or inappropriately infantile (frequently rocking or head-banging, for example)
  • Is delayed in physical or emotional development without a medical diagnosis
  • Has attempted suicide
  • Reports a lack of attachment to the parent
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Signs and Behaviors of the Parent or Caretaker

  • Constantly blames, belittles or berates the child or youth
  • Is unconcerned about the child and refuses to consider offers of help for the child or youth’s problems
  • Overtly rejects the child
  • Actively refuses to respond to a child or youth’s needs (i.e. refusing touch)
  • Consistently isolates child or youth from normal social contact with peers and family