Douglas Besharov states in Recognizing Child Abuse: A Guide for the Concerned, “Emotional abuse is an assault on the child’s psyche, just as physical abuse is an assault on the child’s body”(1990). Children who are constantly ignored, shamed, terrorized or humiliated suffer at least as much, if not more, than if they are physically assaulted. Danya Glaser (2002) finds that emotional abuse can be “more strongly predictive of subsequent impairments in the children’s development than the severity of physical abuse.” An infant who is severely deprived of basic emotional nurturance, even though physically well cared for, can fail to thrive and can eventually die. Babies with less severe emotional deprivation can grow into anxious and insecure children who are slow to develop and who have low self-esteem. Although the visible signs of emotional abuse in children can be difficult to detect, the hidden scars of this type of abuse manifest in numerous behavioral ways, including insecurity, poor self-esteem, destructive behavior, angry acts (such as fire setting and animal cruelty), withdrawal, poor development of basic skills, alcohol or drug abuse, suicide, difficulty forming relationships and unstable job histories. Emotionally abused children often grow up thinking that they are deficient in some way. A continuing tragedy of emotional abuse is that, when these children become parents, they may continue the cycle with their own children. Some children may experience emotional abuse only, without ever experiencing another form of abuse. However, emotional abuse typically is associated with and results from other types of abuse and neglect, which makes it a significant risk factor in all child abuse and neglect cases. Emotional abuse that exists independently of other forms of abuse is the most difficult form of child abuse to identify and stop.
There is no greater evil
than those who willingly
hurt an innocent child.
The desire to be part of a loving family; to have parents who are loving, supporting, and caring; to have siblings who love you and care for your well-being; to have family members who listen to you, who share themselves, who make your life happier by being in it (and who are happy in your being in their lives)…. All those are very human desires. Everyone wants those. Who doesn’t want to be loved well and loved for who they are? … not everyone gets that family. Yet abused children will do anything to convince themselves that, yes, they do have that family. Myriad children, for the sake of being able to survive to adulthood, have to convince themselves that their family is loving…. even if the children are being routinely cut into shreds emotionally. Abusive parents, knowing this on some level, often tell their abused children that they deserve such verbal takedowns, that the parents are only being honest or caring, that the parents need to correct their children, etc. The abusive parents often cling to an idea that they are fantastic parents and, as emotionally abused children often experience a type of brainwashing, children repeat what they hear. “We are a loving family,” a child will repeat, even if bearing emotional scars from distant, selfish parents. “My parents are great parents,” a boy will repeat even if he has been treated harshly and been abused routinely. The child’s mind needs to believe that the loving family is true… because the truth of the matter is very difficult for a child to accept. But it’s also difficult for an adult survivor to accept the fact. However, an adult has the ability to break away from the abuse. And one way to make sure they stop engaging in relationships that are abusive is to remember the truth of the relationship. Remember the facts of what really have happened. Unfortunately, many adult survivors of emotional child abuse—-longing for family, longing for parents, hating how judgmental society is regarding estranged family members—hurry back to the fold almost as quickly as they told their abusers to stop it. The adult survivor’s deeply rooted desire for what could be makes them return to the fold in the very foolish, heart-breaking hope that everything will be different now… By Veronica Maria Jarski http://theinvisiblescar.wordpress.com/tag/adult-survivors-of-emotional-child-abuse-2/
There are many
who don’t wish to sleep
for fear of nightmares.
Sadly, there are many
who don’t wish to wake
for the same fear.
Richelle E. Goodrich
There are four common traits found in adults who have been abused as children. A person who has experienced severe sexual, physical, or emotional abuse will usually have all four. A person who experienced limited abuse will probably have only some of the traits, and those that are present will interfere with this person’s life in only a limited number of situations. The first trait is the tendency to be triggered by specific events, which has been called time tunneling… The second trait is difficulty modulating emotions. This means that it is easy for a person to become anxious or angry, and, once angered or frightened, it is difficult for this person to calm down. An adult who had to suppress many emotions as a child may also find it difficult to feel emotions at a low-level because the tendency to suppress emotions has become automatic. The third trait is a tendency to view oneself and the world negatively. The three key areas affected are the ability to trust, feel safe, and believe that it is possible to bring about desired outcomes. Two key areas in terms of one’s self image are whether or not one is normal and whether or not one is lovable. The nature of the abuse can greatly affect the form of these negative views. For instance, if a person was abused by a stranger, he or she may feel a sense of safety when close loved ones, and a sense of danger when far away from them. However, if a person was abused by someone who was supposed to protect and give love, the identification of what and who are “safe” becomes confused. The fourth trait is a reduced ability to understand events. People with this tendency find that they often go into a daze or become confused, especially when they are stressed, dealing with conflict, or emotionally upset. When a child is being abused and cannot escape physically, the child often takes the only other form of escape possible: dissociation. The more frequent and severe the abuse, the greater the tendency to remove oneself mentally from the painful experience. …people with abusive childhoods often find it difficult to distinguish unhealthy individuals from healthy ones. Their childhood experiences taught them to ignore the important indicators that to those raised in healthy families became danger signals. Instead, they “numb out” or use an old response pattern that causes them to walk into harm’s way without even knowing it. In addition, an abused child often develops a self-concept that contains beliefs about being dirty, inadequate, guilty, or responsible for what happened. As a result, a person like this often makes up a “cover story” and tries to hide who he or she really is… From article by Reneau Peurifoy http://rpeurifoy.com/Articles/TraitsinAdultswithAbusiveChildhoods.aspx
Not all scars show,
not all wounds heal.
Sometimes you can’t
always see the pain
that someone feels.
There is no universally accepted definition of emotional abuse. It is commonly defined as “systematic attacks on a child’s emotional well-being and sense of self-worth.” Think of emotional child abuse as a pattern of behavior that attacks a child’s emotional development, sense well-being and trust in the world and others. These attacks can include overtly violent verbal acts or simply chronic, excessive, aggressive or unreasonable demands that place expectations on children that are beyond their developmental capacity. Often, parents unknowingly place inappropriate expectations on children. Three-year-olds, for example, can not be expected to sit quietly for an extended length of time. They just do not have the physical control of their bodies yet, nor the coping skills to always manage “listening” to requests to “behave.” Even an overly cooperative child is at-risk for being dominated and controlled through a system of praise and rewards which can be emotionally damaging, as the child feels pressured into a constant race to keep up with the expectations of others. Expectations that do not consider a child’s needs and feelings do more harm than good. The end result: a child who has less ability to organize his thoughts, relate in healthy ways, manage his emotions or resolve conflict peacefully. Violence in our words can manifest in a variety of ways including: verbal attacks, judgments, shame, blame, guilt, comparing, criticizing, teasing, name-calling insulting, rejecting and evaluating children’s behavior. Any time children are exposed to verbal abuse or violence, it chips away at their sense of self-worth and lays a foundation of hopelessness. Sometimes it’s just a scratch and other times it’s a whole chunk of self-esteem that falls off. It is not always the severity of the event but the attention, intention, and follow-up reactions of adults that determine whether or not these disconnections in our relationships (which happen and are normal) become healing moments of growth or moments which undermine healthy development. The child who feels heard, and emotionally supported will grow from negative experiences, learning to cope and strengthening his capacity for empathy. The child who experiences criticism, isolation, punitive consequences, negativity, shame, blame or guilt does not develop in the same ways. From an online article by Lori Petro http://www.teach-through-love.com/emotional-child-abuse.html
I wanted to tell you
all my secrets
but you became
one of them.
Emotional abuse of a child is commonly defined as a pattern of behavior by parents or caregivers that can seriously interfere with a child’s cognitive, emotional, psychological or social development. Emotional abuse of a child — also referred to as psychological maltreatment — can include:
- Ignoring. Either physically or psychologically, the parent or caregiver is not present to respond to the child. He or she may not look at the child and may not call the child by name.
- Rejecting. This is an active refusal to respond to a child’s needs (e.g., refusing to touch a child, denying the needs of a child, ridiculing a child).
- Isolating. The parent or caregiver consistently prevents the child from having normal social interactions with peers, family members and adults.
- Exploiting or corrupting. In this kind of abuse, a child is taught, encouraged or forced to develop inappropriate or illegal behaviors. It may involve self-destructive or antisocial acts of the parent or caregiver, such as teaching a child how to steal…
- Verbally assaulting. This involves constantly belittling, shaming, ridiculing or verbally threatening the child.
- Terrorizing. Here, the parent or caregiver threatens or bullies the child and creates a climate of fear for the child.
- Neglecting the child. This abuse may include educational neglect, where a parent or caregiver fails or refuses to provide the child with necessary educational services; mental health neglect, where the parent or caregiver denies or ignores a child’s need for treatment for psychological problems; or medical neglect, where a parent or caregiver denies or ignores a child’s need for treatment for medical problems.
While the definition of emotional abuse is often complex and imprecise, professionals agree that, for most parents, occasional negative attitudes or actions are not considered emotional abuse. What is truly harmful, according to James Garbarino, a national expert on emotional abuse, is the persistent, chronic pattern that “erodes and corrodes a child”. Most parents want the best for their children. However, some parents may emotionally and psychologically harm their children because of stress, poor parenting skills, social isolation, lack of available resources or inappropriate expectations of their children. They may emotionally abuse their children because the parents or caregivers were emotionally abused themselves as children. http://www.americanhumane.org/children/stop-child-abuse/fact-sheets/emotional-abuse.html
The difficult child is
the child who is unhappy.
He is at war with himself;
and in consequence,
he is at war with the world.
A. S. Neill
The brains of children raised in violent families resemble the brains of soldiers exposed to combat, psychologists say. They’re primed to perceive threat and anticipate pain, adaptations that may be helpful in abusive environments but produce long-term problems with stress and anxiety. “For them to detect early cues that might signal danger is adaptive. It allows them to react, to try and avoid the danger,” said psychologist Eamon McCrory of University College London. However, “a very similar neural signature characterizes quite a few anxiety disorders.” In a study published Dec. 5 in Current Biology, McCrory’s team used functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, to measure blood flows in the brains of 43 children exposed to violence at home as they looked at pictures of sad or angry faces. Previous studies have shown that abuse affects kids’ brains; as they grow up, abused children become adults with high levels of aggression, anxiety, depression and other behavioral problems. But according to McCrory, the new study is the first to use fMRI to study the form of those changes. “Understanding the neural mechanisms might give us clues as to how someone’s future might be shaped by their experience,” McCrory said. His team compared fMRIs from abused children to those of 23 non-abused but demographically similar children from a control group. In the abused children, angry faces provoked distinct activation patterns in their anterior insula and right amygdala, parts of the brain involved in processing threat and pain. Similar patterns have been measured in soldiers who’ve seen combat. Another recent study found that depression in people who were abused as children is especially difficult to treat. McCrory hopes future work will give a more complete picture of abuse’s neurological effects — and, perhaps, the effects of interventions that help children heal. “Can children change in response to an act of intervention? To a better home environment? We’re quite optimistic that’s the case, that this is reversible. But that’s something we need to test,” McCrory said. By Brandon Keim http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2011/12/neurology-of-abuse/
The difficult child
is the child
who is unhappy.
He is at war
and in consequence,
he is at war
with the world.
A. S. Neill
Verbal abuse within intimate relationships is more than name-calling. The partner engaging in abusive behaviors may use withholding, taunting, accusing, belittling, lying, put downs, abuse disguised as jokes, yelling and raging. These emotionally and verbally abusive behaviors are about maintaining control and power in a relationship. Those who are on the receiving end of these behaviors may feel confused about what’s really happening for themselves – and within their relationship. That’s part of what makes verbally abusive relationships so dangerous. The person engaging in abusive behaviors is often skilled at twisting things around in ways that make the person being abused feel like it’s her/his fault. Since the person being targeted is usually blamed, ignored or yelled at, there’s often great confusion and lack of clarity about what’s really happening in a relationship. In her book, The Verbally Abusive Relationship, author Patricia Evans describes some of the obstacles and indicators that contribute to the difficulty of recognizing verbal abuse in one’s intimate relationship.
* The abuse is often subtle with control increasing over time – and the partner gradually learns to adapt to it.
* The partner has learned to overlook disrespect, unkindness, disregard and indifference and doesn’t stand up for them self.
* The person being targeted “forgets” the abuse when their partner is friendly to them.
* The abuser and the partner may function well together in terms of working, caring for a home, raising children – so the abuse is overlooked, minimized or ignored – both by the person being abused and those who witness it.
* The partner takes too much responsibility for the pattern of abuse and thinks there’s something wrong with them self.
* The person being targeted has no models or knowledge of healthy relationships to which they can compare the relationship.
Evans reminds us that verbal abuse is a kind of battering – and that while words don’t leave visible scars, the pain of verbal abuse is deep, long-lasting and recovery can be very challenging. Verbally abusive relationships rarely just “get better” on their own and often escalate to physical abuse. Taken from an article by Karen Pace, Michigan State University Extension, http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/is_your_relationship_verbally_abusive
The words with which a child’s heart is poisoned,
whether through malice or through ignorance,
remain branded in his memory,
and sooner or later they burn his soul.
Carlos Ruiz Zafon
A study just published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry found that adults who were bullied as children were more likely than others to suffer from depression and anxiety, as well as a host of physical ills, including fatigue, pain and a greater susceptibility to colds. Just under 19 percent reported that they had been victims of regular and traumatizing bullying, either physical or verbal. After taking into account factors that can impact mental and physical health, such as age, gender, income, employment, education and marital status, the researchers found that bullying was linked to later problems with mental and physical health. No one knows exactly how bullying might lead to future physical health problems, says the study’s lead author, Dr. Stephen Allison, a researcher in the department of psychiatry at Flinders University of South Australia. But, he adds, scientists suspect that the daily stress of being bullied can translate into long-term damage to your body. When the brain senses a threat, it activates your fight-or-flight response. That sparks an increase in hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, priming your body for action. Your heart speeds up, your muscles tense, your blood vessels narrow and your digestive system slows down. When your body is kept on high alert for long periods of time, tense muscles can become painful, while your stomach can start to ache. The changes brought about by chronic stress can also lead to increased inflammation and a weaker immune system making you more susceptible to colds. Allison and his colleagues found that adults who’d been bullied as kids reported poorer overall health and said that health problems often got in the way of both work and leisure activities. Those who had been bullied also were more likely to report body aches and pains and to complain of low energy levels and fatigue. The new study extends to the more immediate effects other researchers have noticed in bullied kids, says William Pollack, an associate clinical professor in the department of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and director of the Centers for Men and Young Men at Harvard’s McLean Hospital. Bullied kids are more prone to feelings of loneliness, depression and low self-esteem, as well as physical ills like headaches, abdominal pain, nausea, and recurrent upper respiratory infections and sore throats, Pollack says. By Linda Carroll http://www.nbcnews.com/id/35020704/ns/health-childrens_health/t/victims-bullying-face-lingering-health-issues/
People who love themselves,
don’t hurt other people.
The more we hate ourselves,
the more we want others to suffer.
An insecure childhood is often a set up for needing to control others. The person who was traumatized as a child by family violence often feels anxious, keyed up, on edge, irritable and tense. He has trouble learning the tools to release pent-up emotions of distress. The child learns to vent his anger because one of their parents acted that way. Some of the children in the family learn to identify with the aggressor because the parent who yells the loudest gets his way. Belligerence and hostility become a way of life. They can even justify their yelling or hitting saying, “I was raised with my dad’s yelling and using the belt, and it didn’t hurt me.” They cannot see that their current behavior, which seems normal to them is a direct result of being raised in an angry household. A second pattern that happens in other abused children, (particularly girls) is freezing in response to loud voices and anger. This is a dissociative response where the person becomes numb and spaces out instead of fighting or fleeing. Dissociation can be a normal response to trauma to keep from experiencing the pain. This behavioral pattern, learned in childhood, then carries over to the adult life where the woman literally gives up her voice to keep the peace. A third pattern in dealing with stress that is also more prevalent in girls and women is “tend and befriend.” Women are more likely to band together and try to keep the peace. Tend and befriend is connected to the female brain and maternal behavior associated caring for others is due to a hormone called oxytocin. This evolutionary adaptation of trying to soothe the waters and keep others happy backfires on women who live in abusive relationships. From “So You Love An Angry Person” by Lynne Namka, Ed. D. http://www.angriesout.com/family2.htm
hurt or pain.
and keep you
Children learn how to be in relationships from their parents through a process of social learning, and especially observational learning. They adapt the behaviors they see their parents do. The children in the family watch their parents and learn positive as well as dysfunctional coping styles in dealing with stress and threat. Research studies show that there are three social skills that create happy marriages: problem solving, emotional distress regulation and conflict management. Expression of positive words, maintaining a pleasant attitudes and the avoidance of conflict and negativity are other major skills in creating happy unions. People, who have poor coping skills in handling internal emotional distress, often become anxious or angry. Aggression is learned behavior. Children raised in families with above average in rates of violence are at greater risk for being physically aggressive toward their romantic partner. Violence is passed down through the generations. Parental physical punishment of the adolescent has been associated with later dating violence. Increased risk for overall antisocial behavior in general in turn increases risk for aggression toward a romantic partner. Children, who aggressively fight with their siblings, can carry this destructive fighting pattern over to their adult years. Parents who discipline their children by emphasizing positive interactions and inhibiting negative behaviors promote skills in conflict management. Parents who do not monitor their children’s behavior or give inconsistent discipline create children who do not have the social skills to succeed in happy relationships. Achieving emotional intimacy is a necessary developmental task of young adults. Close social ties promote personal well-being. The failure to establish or maintain positive relationships sets up physical and emotional distress in the individual. From “So You Love An Angry Person” by Lynne Namka, Ed. D. http://www.angriesout.com/family2.htm
There are two things
a person should never
be angry at,
what they can help,
and what they cannot.