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What is psychological abuse?
Psychological abuse is closely associated with neglect. In fact, emotional abuse is often used interchangeably with child neglect. However, neglect typically involves depriving the child of some physical necessity such as food or shelter; emotional abuse is not necessarily physical. For instance, a parent or guardian could penalize a child for normal behavior, such as smiling or laughing. This does not involve physically depriving the child of anything but is still abusive and damaging.
Punishing children for normal behavior may keep them from acting normally in the future, damage their self-esteem and create lasting emotional problems. Psychological abuse could also involve punishing a young child for becoming attached to a caregiver, penalizing the child for exploring his/her surroundings or punishing a child for demonstrating signs of self-esteem. For example, a parent, guardian or caregiver that yells at a young child for developing emotional attachments to other people or developing interpersonal skills may be considered emotionally abusive.
Physical vs. Psychological
Whether you realize it or not, child abuse is not always physical. In fact, emotional abuse can leave a child with scars equally as severe as those left by physical abuse. Emotional abuse, also called psychological abuse, involves mistreating a child in any way that impairs their psychological growth or development. Emotional abuse can be active or passive; indifference can be as emotionally damaging as abusive words or actions. Generally speaking, emotional abusers habitually reject, ignore, demean, and criticize their victims – leaving the child with psychological damage.
Psychological and physical abuse can occur simultaneously, but one does not necessitate the other. Physical abuse, also called non-accidental trauma, involves any physical damage inflicted on a child by another person – usually a caregiver. The signs of physical abuse are referred to as battered child syndrome and range of mild bruising to fractures and other dangerous injuries. According to the New York Times, physical child abuse usually takes place when the abuser is under a great deal of stress. Additionally, many child abusers were physically abused as children.