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Emotional Maltreatment

Emotional Neglect:
Emotional neglect is a chronic failure by the caretaker to provide the child with the support and affection necessary to develop a sound and healthy personality. When a child is emotionally neglected, he or she is being hurt by what is not there.

Emotional neglect may include:
  • Habitual lack of attention, affection, emotional support or supervision
  • Refusal of treatment or services recommended by school or medical personnel
  • Punishing indiscriminately without teaching right from wrong
  • No "family time" for shared social experiences such as meals, discussions about feelings or family outings
  • Showing no interest in a child's schoolwork, grades, hobbies or friends
  • Lack of supervision with no established expectations for behavior

Emotional Abuse:
Emotional abuse is a chronic attitude or act of a caretaker that is detrimental to the child's development of a sound and healthy personality. Emotional abuse is often expressed in verbal abuse, making a child feel that he or she is worthless and unworthy of attention and love.

Emotional abuse may include:
  • Verbal threats of bodily harm
  • Mis-socialization of a child into harmful behaviors such as lying or stealing
  • Demeaning a child with comments such as "you're stupid," "you're no good," "you're ugly," or "I hate you"

Effects of Emotional Maltreatment
  • Low self esteem
  • Difficulty in forming positive relationships
  • Defiant behavior
  • Inability to trust
  • Poorly developed ability to empathize with others
  • Apathy
  • Elimination disorders
  • Speech disorders
  • Eating disorders
  • Derives pleasure from hurting others
  • Suicide attempts

What Can We Do To Prevent Emotional Maltreatment?
  • Teach parents and caregivers to set limits, communicate directions and provide structure for children and youth with loving, rather than hurting, words.
  • Tell children and youth that they are special, important, lovable, likeable and talented.
  • Provide support and education to parents and caregivers who are adult supervisors of maltreatment to help break the cycle of abuse.


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