victims of abuse and caregiving

Mothers and fathers are there to provide security, safety and protection to their children. Sadly, mother gave me none of these. On the contrary, she abused me emotionally and physically from the age of 7. When she was no longer able to hit me (around when I was 24), she continued to humiliate me both in private and in public. Caring for her now, as an adult survivor of this type of abuse, is both an ongoing struggle as it is cathartic.

There are any number of forms of abuse. Not least, physical and emotional. Emotional abuse is the second most common reason for children to be put into care. It is an insidious and far reaching form of abuse in children. Only sexual abuse tops this form of harm to children.

Working together (HM Government, 2013) defines emotional abuse as:

“the persistent emotional maltreatment of a child such as to cause severe and persistent adverse effects on the child’s emotional development. It may involve conveying to a child that they are worthless or unloved, inadequate, or valued only insofar as they meet the needs of another person. It may include not giving the child opportunities to express their views, deliberately silencing them or ‘making fun’ of what they say or how they communicate. It may feature age or developmentally inappropriate expectations being imposed on children. These may include interactions that are beyond a child’s developmental capability, as well as overprotection and limitation of exploration and learning, or preventing the child participating in normal social interaction. It may involve seeing or hearing the ill-treatment of another. It may involve serious bullying (including cyberbullying), causing children frequently to feel frightened or in danger, or the exploitation or corruption of children. Some level of emotional abuse is involved in all types of maltreatment of a child, though it may occur alone.”

Emotional abuse where someone intentionally tries to scare, demean or generally verbally abuse a child is known as “active” abuse as it requires a premeditated intention to harm that child. Barlow and Schrader McMillan (2010) defined four main types of active emotional abuse:

  • spurning (rejecting)
  • terrorising
  • isolating
  • exploiting or corrupting.

Barlow and Schrader McMillan (2010) used five categories of passive emotional abuse.

  • Emotional unavailability, where a parent or carer is not connected with the child and cannot give them the love that they deserve and need.
  • Negative attitudes, such as having a low opinion of the child and not offering any praise or encouragement.
  • Developmentally inappropriate interaction with the child, either expecting the child to perform tasks that they are not emotionally mature enough to do or speaking and acting around the child in an inappropriate way.
  • Failure to recognise a child’s individuality, this can mean an adult relying on a child to fulfil their own emotional needs and not recognising that the child has needs of their own.
  • Failure to promote social adaptation; not encouraging a child to make friends and mix among their own social peers.