Child Abuse: Emotional Abuse by Parents - Topic Overview
The behavior of an emotionally abusive parent or caregiver does not
support a child's healthy development and well-being—instead, it creates an
environment of fear, hostility, or anxiety. A child is sensitive to the
feeling, opinions, and actions of his or her parents. Emotionally harmful
attitudes may include the following.
Showing a lack of regard for the child
This behavior often includes rejecting the child by:
- Not showing affection.
the child's presence and obvious needs.
- Ignoring the child when he
or she is in need of comfort.
- Not calling the child by his or her
Saying unkind things to the child
Emotionally abusive parents say things or convey feelings that can
hurt a child deeply. Common examples include:
- Making the child feel unwanted, perhaps by
stating or implying that life would be easier without the child. For example, a
parent may tell a child, "I wish you were never born."
or belittling the child, such as saying, "You are stupid."
- Threatening the child with harsh punishment or even
- Continuous verbal abuse.
- Comparing the child to
siblings or peers.
- Blaming the child for family problems.
Creating an emotionally unhealthy environment
Some emotionally abusive parents place ill-advised or impossibly
difficult expectations on their children, such as:
- Encouraging the child to commit immoral or
- Pressuring the child to grow up too
- Expecting the child to perform beyond his or her capability
- Isolating the child from family and friends.