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Emotional abuse is the 2nd most common reason for children needing protection from abuse in the UK 

Psychological and Emotional Abuse 

Psychological and emotional abuse is 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 cyber bullying), 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. 
(Definition provided by Working Together) 
Psychological and Emotional abuse can be the primary form of child maltreatment but it is also inextricably linked to all other forms of abuse. Empirical research indicates that the most common and lasting effects of physical abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect tend to be related to associated and embedded psychological experiences (see the Impact of Neglect on the Neglect Page and the consequences of child physical abuse on the Physical Abuse page).  
Several studies have found that emotional abuse and emotional neglect occurring on its own can have negative effects of a severity that is equal to or greater than other forms of abuse. Thus, psychological and emotional abuse may be considered as a unifying concept that embodies many of the most significant components of child abuse and neglect. The childline Video above suggests impact of psychological and emotional abuse and illustrates some of the forms it can take: blaming, bullying, dengrating and humiliating but it can be difficult to define and measure in practice. 
Research and service development has tended to lag behind work in other areas of child maltreatment (e.g. Child Sexual Abuse) but progress has been made. The table below is one such helpful contribution as an effort to define 6 major types of psychological maltreatment of children [DOWNLOAD PDF VERSION HERE] 
Source: Office for the Study of the Psychological Rights of the Child, Purdue University, 902 West New York Street, Indianapolis, IN 46202-515

Impact of Psychological and Emotional Abuse 

For over 30 years, expert opinion and clinical findings have identified serious consequences to children associated with psychological and emotional abuse: 
Habit disorders 
Conduct disorders 
Neurotic traits 
Psychoneurotic reactions 
Behaviour extremes 
Overly adaptive behaviours 
Lags in development 
Attempted suicide 
(Wald 1991, Broadhurst 1997) 
Hart (1987) found Psychological maltreatment, broadly defined, associated with the following problems: 
Poor appetite 
Lying and Stealing 
Encopresis and enuresis 
Low self esteem or negative self concept 
Emotional instability or emotional maladjustment 
Reduced emotional responsiveness 
Inability to become independent 
Incompetence or under-achievement 
inability to trust others 
Failure to thrive 

Three bases of impact research exist in support of the position that psychological and emotional abuse is the core component of child abuse and neglect  

Longitudinal  Research 

The Minnesota Mother-Child Interaction Project (1983 ; 1987) - Children of hostile and verbally abusive mothers experienced similar levels of negative impact to children of physically abusive mothers. The negative impact on children of psychologically unavaialbale mothers (i.e. denying emotinal responsiveness) was the most devastating impact. 
The Lehigh Longitudinal Study 1984; 1983; 1991; 1997) found that pre-school children that experienced spurning and terrorizing in acts of criticising, verbal rejection, and threats of physical punishment, and acts of physical abuse were likely to become school age children who felt unloved, inadequate, and angry (i.e. with low self esteem and likely to be aggressive). Levels of assualtive behaviour in adolescence were judged to be influenced by their early childhood experiences, which exemplified terrorising, spurning, or corrupting / exploiting (see Table of "6 Types of Psychological Matreatment" above).  
The Cambridge-Somerville Youth Study (a 40 year investigation following 253 males to determine relationships between early conditions of psychological care and treatment and later adolescent or adult characteristics: Discipline that is erratic and punitive or lax, and parenting that is rejecting, neglectful, or cruel were found to particularly pre-dispose children to crime. These conditions were also associated with child histories of emotional instability, substance abuse, and high mortality. 
Lefkowitz, Eron, Walder and Huesmann (1977): Predictors of child aggression in the third grade (year 4 in the UK, age 8-9yrs) were parental rejection, low parental nuturance, and punishment for aggression when the child had low or only moderate indentification with parents (i.e. spurning, denying emotional responsiveness by care-givers). The strongest predictor of aggression at 19 was the degree of aggression observed at age 8-9. 
Ney, Fung, and Wickett (1994) found that spurning, and denying emotional responsiveness significantly influence the development of feelings and perspectives about enjoyment of living, purpose in life, prospects for futurelife, chances of having a happy marriage, and expectations for being a good parent. In combination, verbal abuse and emotional neglect experiences were associated with the most devastating outcomes. 

Cross-Cultrual  Research 

Rohner and Rohner (1980) investigated the impact of rejection in dozens of anthropological studies in world-wide, varied cultures, investigating the antecedents and consequences of parental acceptance / rejection and emotional abuse. 

The research indicates that Psychological and Emotional Abuse is an extremely varied phenomenon in terms of context, acts of commission and omssion, that are damaging to children 

Theories of recognised and strong relevance to psychological maltreatment include Human Needs Theory (See Abraham Maslow), Psycho-social Theory (See Erik Erikson), Attachment Theory (see John Bowlby), Systems Theory (see Ludwig von Bertalanffy) and Acceptance-Rejection Theory (see Rohner and Rohner). 
The primary attachment relationship is not necessarily dependent upon feeding the infant. It develops around 7 months and the main evolutionary function was protection from predators 
The attachment relationship is demonstrated by the manifestation of proximity seeking when the infant is separated from the attachment figure. Proximity seeking can be seen in older children and adults at times of stress or threat. 
A secure attachment relationship creates a secure base from which a child feels safe to explore the world 
If separated from an attachment figure, infants and young children exhibit separation protest which involves the expression of distress and urgent efforts to be reunited with the attachment figure. Permanent deparation from the attachment figure can impair a child's security and the associated exploratory behaviour. 
On the basis of early attachment experiences an internal working model develops which acts as the template for other relationships. 
Attachment behaviour continues throughout life, and develops from immature dependence on caregivers to mature dependence on friends and partners. 
Attachment Theory in Practice 

Comparative Studies of Impact 

Comparative research now provides a large body of useful information: 
Hostile verbal abuse has been found to be similar to physical abuse in terms of negative impact upon children and psychological / emotinal unavailability has been found to be the most devastating of all maltreatment forms studied. 
Spurning and denying emotional responses seems to be a substantial antecedent to the development of criminality in children. 
Claussen and Crittenden found that psychological and emotioal abuse was a better predictor of detromental developmental outcomes in younger children than the severity of physical injury from abuse. 
Verbal aggression by parents has been correlated with children expressing physical aggression, delinquency, and interpersonal problems. 
Verbal aggression by parents is more strongly associated to these negative outcomes than was physical aggression and that physical aggression, unacompanied by verbal aggression, was minimal in its impact upon delinquency and interpersonal problems. 
Over the lifecourse childhood psychological and emotional abuse is a stronger predictor than childhood physical abuse for both depression and low self-esteem in adulthood; psychological and emotional abuse bears a special relationships with maladjustment and is particularly strongly related to anxiety, depression, interpersonal sensitivity, dissociation, and low self-esteem; psychological and emotional abuse is the most prevalent form of abuse experienced by bulimics, occurring in more than 4 times the cases reported for physical abuse (Gross and Keller, 1992; Briere and Runtz, 1988,1990; Rorty, Yaeger, and Rossotto , 1994). 
Mothers' histories of being rejected by a parent has been found to be highly related to rejection of her own infant, particularly if the mother displayed cognitive distortions such as idealisation of the rejecting parent, difficulty in remembering childhood, and incoherency in discussion attachment issues. Spurning and denying emotional responsiveness produce quite similar negative effects on children, including display of unpredictable bouts of aggressionand hostility, unsympathetic and sometimes violent responses to distress in others, and self-isolating behaviours.  

Human Need Theory: 

Abraham Maslow (1970) proposed that the human organism has certain needs to be met if it is to develop properly. The first set is the basic (defficiency) needs, including physiological needs (e.g. food, clothing, shelter) and the psychological needs of Safety, love and belongingness, and esteem. The second set is what might be termed the "Growth Needs", including the needs for aesthetic and cognitive knowledge and what Maslow called "Self Actualisation": a process of making more complete use of one's talents and potentials and becoming more self motivating, self directive, and self reinforcing. If a child's basic needs are not met or their efforts to get them met are blocked, they may be forced to meet those needs in unhealthy ways. This then distorts their development 

Parental Acceptance Rejection (PAR) Theory 

This theoretical orientation was developed by Rohner and Rohner (1980) to clarify "emotional maltreatment" and to guide cross cultural research on rejection.  
In this theory "acceptance means parental warmth and affection, and "rejection" means emotional abuse that is embodied, principally, in parental hostility and aggression and parental indifference and neglect (the equivalenets of Spurning and denying emotional responsiveness discussed above). 
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