The psychological researcher Moran, PhD, differentiates parental‘antipathy’ (towards the child) from ‘psychological abuse’, although there is clearly considerable overlap between the two.
Sadly, as a child, I had both inflicted upon me : direct, unmitigated psychological abuse came mainly from my mother, then, after she threw me out of her house when I was thirteen and I had to go and live with my father and stepmother, they subjected me to constant and unrelenting antipathy. I can only remember my father giving me one compliment in the years I lived with him and his second wife; from my stepmother, I recall none. My constant, overriding and abiding sense was that they both, frankly, disdained my very presence. In fact, I was essentially ignored unless they felt the need to criticize me, reprimand me, humiliate me or give me a (usually superfluous) instruction.
My mother’s last words, before I left her house, not addressed to me but to my father (who had come to pick me up in his car), regarding me, and in my presence, were : ‘Get this fucking little bastard out of my house and never bring it (she did not, apparently, deem it fit to dignify me with a personal pronoun) back’. And then, on the day I moved into my father’s house I was reminded by him that I was not wanted and was ‘being done a great favour.’ I recall his precise words, in fact : ‘Remember! When Janet [my stepmother] married me, you weren’t part of the deal!’ You will agree, I think, that the implications of these words were fairly unambiguous?
My mothers’ (above) words were, fairly obviously, an example of psychological abuse, whilst my father’s words (above), equally obviously, were an example of antipathy. However, I have written about these incidents elsewhere, so will not elaborate further upon my personal experiences here; instead, I shall endeavour to define the terms ‘psychological abuse’ and ‘antipathy’ (as a form of emotional abuse) in more general terms:
According to Moran (see above), antipathy expressed towards the child by the parent involves the parent treating the child with constant coldness and/or irritation, frequently intimating, or directly expressing, dislike/distaste and behaving towards the child in a generally rejecting manner.
Whereas, also according to Moran, psychological abuse can be split up into the following subcategories:
– terrorizing (such as playing on the child’s deepest fears)
– extreme rejection (such as driving a child to a distant location, making him/her get out of the car and leaving him/her there)
– cognitive disorientation (such as blatantly lying to the child in a way that causes mental confusion and/or undermines the child’s sense of reality; for example, verbally abusing the child and then denying it ever happened)
– deprivation of basic needs (eg sleep)
– deprivation of valued objects (eg a favourite soft toy the child relies on to feel less emotionally insecure)
– inflicting marked distress and discomfort
– corruption (eg encouraging the child to deal drugs)
[It is worth noting, too, that although Modern does not classify them as psychological abuse, he points out that role-reversal (whereby the parent turns the child into his/her carer) and making the child feel frequent shame (eg the parent may frequently get drunk and show up his/her child in front of his/her friends, or make the child wear filthy, shabby clothes to school)) can both inflict severe emotional harm upon the child].
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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).