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Emotional Abuse of Children (From Perspectives on Child Maltreatment in the Mid '80s, P 24-27, 1984 - See NCJ-105544)

NCJ Number
D Dean
Date Published
4 pages
This article identifies factors in child emotional abuse, notes the difficulty of proving such abuse in court, and suggests ways to improve the likelihood of court intervention in cases of emotional abuse.
Emotional abuse may be due to parental indifference toward or emotional detachment from children, nonphysical parent-child interactions that undermine the child's emotional health, and unrealistic parental demands on a child. The general effects of emotional abuse on the child are low self-esteem, guilt, and a sense of being unloved by the parents. Emotional abuse is difficult to diagnose and prove, but the San Diego County Juvenile Court has intervened in cases of emotional abuse based on one of three criteria: a single act sufficient to establish abuse, differential treatment of one child in the family, and a reduction in the child's functioning linked to abusive treatment. Child protection agencies can facilitate such court intervention by conferring with the court on definitions of emotional abuse and guidelines for court refferals, documenting the abuse and its negative effect on the child, using expert witnesses, and determining what other interventions have been attempted and the results achieved. Agencies should also educate the public and juvenile justice professionals to recognize and report emotional abuse, intervene before the child's behavior becomes the focus of court action, and establish a network of community services to aid families in which emotional abuse occurs.