For children, psychological abuse can be just as harmful to their physical, emotional, and mental health as physical abuse, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). And being able to recognize this form of child abuse is one of the hardest challenges.
Harriet MacMillan, MD, a psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences and pediatrics professor at McMaster University's Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine and the Offord Centre for Child Studies, reported in the journal Pediatrics that psychological abuse can include exploiting, belittling, terrorizing or denigrating a child, being emotionally unresponsive, or corrupting to a point of risking a child's well being.
MacMillan, who holds the David R. (Dan) Offord Chair in Child Studies at McMaster, is one of three authors of the position statement, She said: "We are talking about extremes and the likelihood of harm, or risk of harm, resulting from the kinds of behavior that make a child feel worthless, unloved, or unwanted."
MacMillan says examples of psychological abuse could include leaving a child neglected in a crib all day or involving a teen in drug habits, but cases where a parent raises their voice after asking multiple times for a child to complete as task is not considered abuse.
"Yelling at a child every day and giving the message that the child is a terrible person, and that the parent regrets bringing the child into this world, is an example of a potentially very harmful form of interaction."
Children are affected by psychological maltreatment, which could be linked to attachment, developmental, educational, and socialization disorders, as well as displaying disruptive behavior.
"The effects of psychological maltreatment during the first three years of life can be particularly profound."
Homes where family conflict, multiple stresses, physical violence, mental illness, depression, or substance abuse are present are more likely to show signs of psychological abuse, although it can be seen in any family setting. Self report studies show that about 9 percent of women and 4 percent of men were exposed to psychological abuse as a child.
Source: Medical News Today