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Child Abuse and Neglect Essay


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Child Abuse and Neglect


Child abuse also referred to as child maltreatment relates to larger issues other than bruises and fractured bones. Many societal members consider such injuries on a child as sufficient evidence of child abuse simply because these are easily visible (Naughton, Maguire, Mann, Lumb, Tempest, Gracias & Kemp, 2013). It is an unfortunate outcome that even in developed nations; millions of children continue to suffer maltreatment. For instance, the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS) published a report indicating the prevalence of child abuse as well as neglect in the US (American Humane Association, 2009).

The report showed that almost 900,000 children suffered maltreatment with nearly 63% suffering neglect. It is critical to note that such incidences do result in the death of children as in the year 2000, 1,290 children died from maltreatment with 45% dying from neglect (American Humane Association, 2009). Child maltreatment includes physical abuse, physical neglect, emotional abuse and neglect, sexual abuse abandonment, substance abuse and medical abuse. This research paper seeks to discuss emotional child abuse, associated warning signs and symptoms, as well as risk factors.

Emotional Child Abuse

This is a form of child maltreatment leading to impaired psychological development and growth (Naughton et al., 2013). Child abusers employ actions words and indifference towards the child aimed at relentlessly ignoring, rejecting dominating belittling, and criticizing him or her. Emotional child abuse is in most cases witnessed in the absence of physical abuse but sometimes there is an overlap where the victim suffers both forms of maltreatment (Srivastava & Jain, 2015).

For one to comprehend the notion of emotional child abuse fully there is the need to present examples of this form of maltreatment (Shapero, Black, Liu, Klugman, Bender, Abramson & Alloy, 2014). Common instances of emotional child abuse include verbal abuse, undue demands on a victim’s academic performance; penalizing them for normal, acceptable child behavior; depressing caregiver as well as infant attachment; discouraging the child’s development of a positive self-esteem and demoralizing a child for employing interpersonal skills necessary for good performance among peers or at school (Naughton et al., 2013). Similarly, exposing a child to frequent family violence translates to emotional child abuse. Other instances of this form of child abuse also include the inability or unwillingness to offer stimulation or otherwise, affection to a child in the dispensation of daily care also translates to emotional abuse.

Identifying Emotional Child Abuse

Emotional abuse hurts the victims, in this case, children in ways that are as bad as those witnessed with physical abuse on children are and in some cases, in worse ways (Naughton et al., 2013). One of the most worrisome attributes of this form of abuse is that injury marks remain inside the victim rather than outside. As such, there are few well-ascertained measures available for assessing emotional abuse in children. According to the Prevent Child Abuse America (2010) website, clinicians can examine emotional abuse in children using a recently revised type of CATS or the Child Abuse and Trauma Scale. Professional caregivers also possess the skills to closely assess the personalities and behaviors in children. For instance, it has been noted that children who suffer emotional forms of abuse tend to be overly loyal to the victimizing parent  (Shapero et al., 2014). Such children are afraid of reporting abuse incidents for fear of more abuse or ultimately believe that abuse suffered is a common occurrence also affecting his or her peers.

Behavioral indicators generally include unfitting behaviors manifested by the child such that he or she tends to act immature or otherwise more mature for a normal child with the same age (Shapero et al., 2014). Another indicator is the prevalence of erratic behavioral changes like compulsively looking for a source of attention and affection or disruptions in normal day-to-day activities. Abused children also loose bowel control and bed wet frequently even after such training has been accorded (Shapero et al., 2014). Children suffering emotional abuse are also not only aggressive but also uncooperative and manifest anti-social or destructive behaviors (Naughton et al., 2013). There also present poor peer to peer relationships, have low levels of self-confidence, difficulties in making emotional bonds, and project unusual fears for natural phenomenon not expected for their age. It is of critical importance to point out that the aforementioned behaviors can also be witnessed in normal children but pattern changes in these behaviors should be considered as strong indicators of this form of child maltreatment (Shapero et al., 2014).

Perpetrators of Emotional Child Abuse

It is prudent to believe that an adult person involved in some form of a relationship with a particular child should be considered as a possible perpetrator (Srivastava & Jain, 2015). As such, parents, pastors, teachers, neighbors, social workers, judges, police officers, or child caregivers should all be considered as fully capable of fostering emotional child maltreatment. It is important to point out that modern psychologists have come up with a set of characteristics common in emotional abuse perpetrators (Srivastava & Jain, 2015). These common characteristics include the adult belittling or blaming a child in public places, offering negative descriptions of a child, always jumping to the conclusion that a child is in fault and placing unattainable expectations on a child (Naughton et al., 2013). Emotional abuse perpetrators are also known to openly voice dislike or even admit to hating the child. It is also common to find that such perpetrators remain emotionally un-supportive or cold to the child, threaten victims with harsh punishment, and believe that withdrawing comfort is a good way of disciplining a child (Srivastava & Jain, 2015). In most instances, perpetrators of emotional child abuse project a violent nature and by extension, suffer from drug or alcohol abuse.

Why Does Emotional Child Abuse Occur?

There are numerous reasons as to why this form of child maltreatment is common in modern day society. Parents as possible perpetrators become vulnerable to such actions if life stresses become unbearable and they have problems managing stressful situations (Oates, 2013). Some perpetrators project weak capacities for understanding and relating with little children where such deficiencies may stem from psychological problems like psychopathology, mental retardation, drug abuse or alcoholism (Shapero et al., 2014). Perpetrators are also often noted to have false notions concerning children needs or manifest sadistic psychosis. It is important to note that most perpetrators are individuals who often desire to control. Nonetheless, one single factor should not ultimately lead to an individual being labeled as an emotional child abuse perpetrator (Srivastava & Jain, 2015). A combination of the aforementioned factors can generate emotional and social pressures that nurture an environment and conditions for emotional abuse. Particular problem types such as poverty, unemployment, isolation, death, divorce or immature parents can also contribute to a high prevalence of emotional abuse within a family (Shapero et al., 2014). Similarly, health crises in a family or mental health issues also make children susceptible to episodes of emotional abuse.

Outcomes Associated With Emotional Child Abuse

The consequences associated with this form of child maltreatment can not only be serious but also extend to the long-term (Srivastava & Jain, 2015). Research studies have made conclusions to the effect that a number of psychopathological symptoms tend to develop in victims (Oates, 2013). The victims experience lifelong patterns of anxiety, estrangement, low self-esteem, depression, troubled or inappropriate relationships, as well as a lack of empathy (Shapero et al., 2014). Victims often fail to succeed in developmental progress and in some instances, may be halted entirely limiting their abilities to invoke psychological and emotional adjustments. As teenagers, it is common to find that victims exhibit trust issues and seek happiness through interpersonal relationships in an attempt to resolve intricate emotions left over from trouble childhoods (Shapero et al., 2014). When victims attain adulthood, they tend to show inabilities to recognize as well as appreciate feelings and needs of their own offspring and thus, go on to emotionally abuse them.


An effective identification and subsequent confirmation of emotional child abuse requires prudent observations of perpetrator child interactions in different settings and on repeated occasions (Oates, 2013). Regardless of the perpetrator-child relationships action has to be taken by reporting such incidences to relevant authorities. Whether continued incidences of emotional child abuse occur within the family setting, in schools, childcare settings or in any other communal institution, the role of the caregiver is to report and not to investigate such situations (Oates, 2013). Child protection agencies are mandated by US laws to take over emotional child abuse investigation responsibilities upon receiving requests from the public. A careful evaluation by the agency delves into such activities as carefully evaluating the perpetrators and the child and assessing stress sources. These assessments are carried out by appropriately trained, skilled and certified professionals (Srivastava & Jain, 2015). The professionals included in teams investigating reports of child maltreatment include psychiatrists, physicians, child protection workers, public health nurses, teachers and childcare staff.


As this research paper has provided, an unexpectedly huge number of children in the US as well as other nations suffer many forms of child maltreatment including emotional\psychological child abuse. Such children suffer abuse from individuals entrusted by society to take care of them and can therefore be difficult to establish incidences of abuse. Given that it is a very challenging and more so, prevalent type of child maltreatment, there is a great need for the public to be well versed on the issue. This can enable adults in society understand which action leads to the abuse and as such, report incidences to relevant authorities in an effort to protect a child’s future.




American Humane Association. (2009). Child Neglect. Retrieved from

Naughton, A. M., Maguire, S. A., Mann, M. K., Lumb, R. C., Tempest, V., Gracias, S., & Kemp, A. M. (2013). Emotional, behavioral, and developmental features indicative of neglect or emotional abuse in preschool children: a systematic review. JAMA pediatrics167(8), 769-775.

Oates, R. K. (2013). The spectrum of child abuse: Assessment, treatment and prevention. London, UK: Routledge.

Prevent Child Abuse America. (2010). Fact Sheet: Emotional Child Abuse. Retrieved from

Shapero, B. G., Black, S. K., Liu, R. T., Klugman, J., Bender, R. E., Abramson, L. Y., & Alloy, L. B. (2014). Stressful life events and depression symptoms: the effect of childhood emotional abuse on stress reactivity.Journal of clinical psychology70(3), 209-223.

Srivastava, A., & Jain, S. A. (2015). Child Emotional Abuse: Causes, Effects and Remedies. IUP Law Review5(1).

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