Child Abuse: Emotional Abuse by Parents
If you want to save this information but don't think it is safe to take it home, see if a trusted friend can keep it for you. Plan ahead. Know who you can call for help, and memorize the phone number.
Be careful online too. Your online activity may be seen by others. Do not use your personal computer or device to read about this topic. Use a safe computer such as one at work, a friend's house, or a library.
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.
- Ignoring 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 name.
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."
- Ridiculing or belittling the child, such as saying, "You are stupid."
- Threatening the child with harsh punishment or even death.
- 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 illegal acts.
- Pressuring the child to grow up too fast.
- Expecting the child to perform beyond his or her capability or maturity.
- Isolating the child from family and friends.
Current as of: May 28, 2019
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
John Pope, MD, MPH - Pediatrics