Category Archives: Emotional Abuse Articles

‘Incest Panic’

In his immensely helpful book, ‘Healing Trauma’, Peter Levine, PhD., describes a phenomenon that he terms ‘incest panic’.

Levine proposes that it is not uncommon for parents to start to feel an awkward attraction towards their opposite gendered off-spring around about the time the child enters early adolescence (i.e. the father may develop an attraction towards the daughter or the mother may develop an attraction towards her son).

Whilst Levine does not broach the subject, it is also, of course, possible for the parent to develop an attraction towards his son and the mother towards her daughter.

I mention this because a highly qualified and respected therapist once told me (and he was far too responsible a professional to have said this lightly) that he thought it overwhelmingly probable that my father, during my childhood, had behaved inappropriately towards me but that I had repressed the memory of it.

At first I dismissed this out of hand, and he did not pursue it the matter (obviously he would have been aware of the danger of creating false memories through repeated suggestion which, I imagine, is why he let the subject rest).

However, what my therapist had said made me re-appraise certain interactions I had had with my father as a child.

First, when I was about four, I remember I had misbehaved in some way whilst standing with my father by a tall wooden back gate. In order to reprimand me, my father warned : ‘If you do that again I will take down your trousers and pants and lift you over the gate so the neighbours can see you!‘ Obviously, I’d always thought that was a bizarre way for a father to discipline his son, and obviously wrong. But, perhaps naively, I had never, up to that point, believed there may have been some sexual motivation at work. I’d assumed he ‘just’ wanted to deeply humiliate me. (Now I think about this more deeply, my possible ‘denial’ was perhaps related to the idea that, when young, we find it hard to face up to the fact our parents could actually want to hurt us (click here to read a related post about how children idealize their parents).

The second relevant memory is that when I was about nine or ten years old my older brother and I were staying at my father’s maisonette (my parents were divorced at this time and my brother and I stayed with my father every-other weekend). It was quite hot weather and, just before I went to bed, my father said to me, apropos nothing : ‘When it’s hot like this I sleep naked on top of my blankets with nothing covering me.’ At the time, I remember, this struck me as an odd remark (a non-sequitor, in fact, though I wouldn’t have known that phrase at the time, as you’ll no doubt understand). However, after my therapist’s comment, this memory, too, took on a rather more sinister complexion. Was my father encouraging me, in a devious manner, to copy his own liberated nocturnal behaviour for his own nefarious purposes? The simple answer is : ‘I don’t know’).

Thirdly, and this memory most compels me to believe my therapist was might have been right, one night (around the same time, so, again, I would have been nine or ten, I was lying on the top bunk (my brother sleeping on the lower bunk beneath) in the bedroom my father provided for us during our weekend stays with him. I did not have on a pajama top and my father came in  to ‘kiss me goodnight’ and then went on to lower my bed sheets to about the level of my navel and began to not just kiss, but slobber, over my chest and stomach. Again, I remember thinking this odd. However, I don’t remember anything else, including how the incident concluded. It is, I admit, quite possible nothing else happened. It is However, the evidence in support of my therapist’s opinion, when considered as a whole, cannot, I think, be lightly dismissed.

But back to Levine. I think the third memory I describe above at least suggests my father harbored incestuous feelings for me which, at best, he could only just control. Indeed, he may have suffered from the ‘incest panic’ that Levine describes. What further evidence do I have for this? Well, when I reached puberty, my father became extremely cold and distant towards me, as I have written about elsewhere. And, according to Levine, this kind of emotional withdrawal is typical of the parent who suffers from the aforementioned ‘incest panic’ ; feeling deeply uncomfortable with his/her feelings of sexual attraction towards his/her young adolescent offspring, the parent withdraws their affection from the child as a psychological defense mechanism – a kind of shame-based overcompensation.

Having said that, my father was, putting it mildly, not an emotionally demonstrative man in general, so I remain wholly unenlightened.

The book I refer to above is called ‘Healing Trauma‘ by Peter Levine PhD.

 

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

 

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Parenting Styles And Their Potential Effects On Children

The psychologist Edith Dewey, building on ideas originally put forward by the famous psychotherapist and psychiatrist Alfred Adler (1870 – 1937) – who collaborated with Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) and is perhaps best known for developing the concept of the ‘inferiority complex’ – described a range of parenting styles and their potential effects upon children. These parenting styles were as follows :

– DISENGAGED (An extremely damaging form of ‘parenting’ – or, perhaps, non-parenting might be a better way of putting it- that frequently entails the parent/s being aloof/emotionally-detached/unloving/uninterested in the child/indifferent to the child/neglectful/distant).

Children who grow up in such environments are at high risk of developing serious emotional/behavioural problems, poor self-image / low self-esteem as well as drug/alcohol dependence

– OVER-PROTECTIVE

Children brought up in over-protective environments may lack the opportunity to take on reasonable challenges, test themselves and make mistakes from which they can learn. As a result, they  may experience difficulties coping in later life when inevitable problems do arise, and fail to become sufficiently self-reliant / independent.

DEMOCRATIC (Fair, reasonable, respectful, equitable and taking account of child’s views, opinions and arguments; the best style, according to Adler)

Alfred Adler Biography - Childhood, Life Achievements & Timeline

Above : Alfred Adler (1870-1937)

– Being raised in a democratic atmosphere helps the child develop a sense that his/her social environment is reasonable, fair, safe and equitable, providing him/her with the foundations necessary to flourish in a democratic society.

AUTHORITARIAN (Demanding obedience at all times, irrespective of child’s protests)

Children of authoritarian parents may develop into adults who are overly conforming, lacking initiative and overly reliant on others for guidance and direction. A veneer of obliging politeness may overlay feelings of tension and anxiety when interacting with others.

MATERIALISTIC (Parent/s regard gaining wealth and material assets to be of primary importance, to the detriment of relationships)

The child may develop a sense of entitlement and become overly psychologically dependent on material possessions. Over- emphasis on external, material resources may lead to poor development of internal mental resources (such as creativity) and consequent superficiality.

– MARTYR (Parent/s portray themselves as powerless victims, bravely and virtuously suffering for the sake of others/their oppressors/those who exploit and take advantage of them)

Child may come to view suffering as ‘morally worthy’ and become self-righteous; s/he may, too, constantly cast him/herself as a victim, thus facilitating evasion of responsibility.

CRITICAL

Children who grow up with overly critical parents may become rebellious and learn to treat others as they themselves have been treated by demeaning and disparaging them. Sometimes, one child in a family with two or more children may become the target of the bulk of the parental criticism and become the family scapegoat. (To read my article entitled : The Dysfunctional Family’s Scapegoat’ click here.)

– INCONSISTENT (Especially in relation to enforcement/non-enforcement of discipline. Absence of stability and routine. Such an environment commonly arises as a result of a parent having an alcohol / narcotic related condition)

If brought up by inconsistent parents, the child may experience difficulties developing self-discipline, self-control and self-motivation.

COMPETITIVE

The child’s self-esteem can become overly linked to success in various aspects of life, such as accumulating wealth and achieving career advancement. Because his/her self-view is so closely dependent upon such success, s/he may suffer severe anxiety if s/he fails, or believes s/he will fail, living-up to these self-imposed exacting standards. (This is linked to ‘perfectionism’ – to read my article on how childhood trauma can lead to ‘perfectionism’, click here.)

PITYING

Children who are overly-pitied may have problems developing self-respect and prone to dwelling and ruminating on their problems. They may also start to regard themselves as specially entitled.

RELENTLESS EXPECTATION OF HIGH STANDARDS

The child may suffer from severe feelings of ‘inadequacy’ when s/he perceives him/herself as having failed to live up to the high standards expected by his/her parents. Even during periods of great achievement and success, s/he may constantly, anxiously anticipate imminent failure. (This, too, is closely related to perfectionism‘.)

HOPELESSNESS

Parents who constantly generate an atmosphere of hopelessness may, unsurprisingly, put their children at risk of becoming extremely pessimistic and negative themselves, seeing no escape root from their circumstances (this is linked to the concept of learned helplessness‘).

It is also suggested that children brought up in such environments may attempt to mentally dissociate from it by entering a world of mental fantasy; or, alternatively, by acting out feelings of inner despair.

NARCISSISTIC (An exceptionally damaging form of parenting. A parent who suffers from narcissistic personality disorder my view the child as a possession who exists solely his/her own benefit. This involves exploitation of the child (e.g through parentification of the child) and a stifling of the development of the child’s identity due to the narcissist’s manipulation of the child into becoming an ‘extension of him/herself’ (i.e. the parent) together with fear and/or jealousy of the child’s attempts to gain independence and achieve his/her (i.e.the child’s) own personal ambitions’)

For a detailed look at the effects of being raised by a narcissistic parent, click here to read my previously published article)

SUPPRESSIVE (Parent/s strongly discourage the child’s expression of genuine emotions, such as anger or sadness, as they find it threatening/inconvenient)

This type of parenting can lead to the child mistrusting his/her own feelings, experiencing problems relating to others on a meaningful level, and becoming dependent upon false persona that conceals his/her ‘true self’.’

– OVER-INDULGENT

A child who is over-indulged may develop problems taking the initiative in life and may also become over-reliant on others. S/he may, too, develop a sense of entitlement.

HIGH LEVEL OF CONFLICT

A child raised in an environment in which there is disharmony and a high level of parental conflict may become rebellious, aggressive and impulsive / prone to taking high risks

– REJECTING

A child rejected by his/her parent/s is grows up to feel fundamentally unlovable and worthless. S/he are also highly likely to develop serious problems trusting others. (To read my article on the long-term effects of parental rejection, click here.)

NB : The above is based on Alfred Adler’s (1870 – 1937) ideas and theories.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

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Harmful Effects Of Labelling The Child As ‘Bad’.

Many children who have been emotionally hurt and traumatized ‘act out’ their intense feelings of confusion, pain, fear, loneliness, isolation and vulnerability, which are too strong and powerful to contain, by expressing these feelings through negative behaviour such as getting into fights, extreme verbal aggression, vandalism, getting drunk or numbing themselves with drugs.

This is, of course, commonly known as ‘acting out’ and children express their pain in this way as they are unable to articulate their feelings, understand the cause of these feelings, or mentally process their traumatic experiences in a meaningful way.

Acting out’, then, is an unconscious, desperate expression of inner turmoil and of a profound need for help, love, compassion and understanding, however counterintuitive and paradoxical this may sound to some.

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Tragically, instead of receiving the help they so desperately need, such children are all too often criticized, disparaged, rejected and labelled as ‘bad’ by the very people (i.e. their parents) who are responsible for inducing the child’s highly distressed condition, rather like injecting a person with a cancer causing agent and then blaming them for being ill ; or punching someone in the face and then blaming them for bleeding over you.

This, of course, can be psychologically crushing for the child, destroying his/her confidence and self-esteem, inducing depression, anxiety, self-harming behaviour and alcohol/drug dependence.

Additionally, the child may go through the rest of his/her life (in the absence of effective therapy) feeling utterly unlovable, intrinsically and irrevocably flawed in terms of character, unable to form healthy relationships, deeply mistrustful of others, cynical, pessimistic and intermittently suicidal.

Also, being labelled as ‘bad’ is likely to intensify the child’s sense of injustice, isolation and rejection, increasing his/her feelings of anger ; this anger may then become a protective shield – a thin and flimsy veneer, unconsciously engineered, to conceal deeply entrenched feelings of powerlessness, vulnerability and despair.

Alternatively, the child may try to cope by ‘shutting off’ emotionally (when this reaches a clinically significant level it is referred to as dissociation‘) and may, as a psychological defense, affect a kind of indifferent, insouciant, disinterested, ‘couldn’t-care-less’ attitude in an attempt to conceal feelings of vulnerability and a fear of being perceived as ‘weak’.

The earlier children suffering in this way can be identified, and remedial, therapeutic interventions instigated, the greater the chance that psychological damage is minimized, allowing the individual to go on to live a satisfying, fulfilling and productive life.

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What Factors Increase Child’s Risk Of Emotional Maltreatment?

According to the National Incidence Study Of Abuse And Neglect (NIS 4, 2010) children are more likely to be emotionally maltreated if (all else being equal):

  1. they live in a household in which there is parental unemployment
  2. they live in a household of low socio-economic status
  3. they live in a household in which there has occurred a family-structural breakdown
  4. they live in a family in which there are many other children
  5. they live in a rural county

Let’s look at each of these in a little more detail :

1) They live in a household in which there is parental unemployment : children who live in a household in which neither parent is employed are at double the risk of being emotionally abused and are 3.5 times more likely to suffer emotional neglect than children who live in households in which there is no parental unemployment

2) They live in a household of low socio-economic status : children who grow up in households categorized as of low socio-economic status were found to be at four times greater risk of being emotionally abused and at five times nigher risk of being emotionally neglected.

3) They live in a household in which there has occurred a family-structural breakdown : children living with a single-parent (with or without a live-in partner) are 3.5 times more likely to suffer emotional abuse and/or emotional neglect than those children who live with both biological parents.

Also, children who live with a single parent and this parent’s unmarried partner are at greatest risk of suffering from emotional neglect.

4) They live in a family with many other children : children who live in families in which there are four or more children are at greater risk of both emotional abuse and emotional neglect than are children who live within smaller families (as regards the number of children)

5) They live in a rural county : children who live in a rural county are at twice the risk (on average) of suffering emotional abuse and/or emotional neglect than are children who live in urban counties.

NB : All of the above statistics relate to the U.S.

 

 

 

The above statistics, as has been seen, relate to both emotional abuse and emotional neglect ; I differentiate between these two types of emotional maltreatment below:

The difference between emotional abuse and emotional neglect :

Emotional Abuse : this entails an act of commission (i.e. something the parent actively did against the child, such as constantly telling him/her that s/he was never wanted or that s/he is ugly).

Emotional Neglect : this entails acts of omission (i.e. something the parent did NOT do for the child, the omission of which caused the child psychological damage, such as when a parent never displays love or affection for the child.

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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

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Effects Of Inconsistent And Unpredictable Parenting

Coming home each day from school as a child, I would never know what kind of mood my mother would be in; one day she might be deeply depressed, the next excitable (in this mood she would often sing, diva style, her favourite songs from the Mikado – ‘ the flowers that bloom in the spring, tra-la, have nothing to do with the case…’ I can’t remember how the song goes from there, but you get the general idea?). Or she might be seething with anger and full of intense loathing for me, conveying her feelings of deep disgust, evoked by my most unwelcome reappearance, by shrieking insults at me through the kitchen window before I’d even set foot inside the door. (I have written about this elsewhere.)

Whilst there has not been a great deal of research conducted upon the effects of unpredictable and inconsistent parenting on children, there exists evidence to suggest (eg. Luxton, 2007) that those who experience it are at increased risk of developing low self-esteem and depression as adults. (Also, it seems that consistent maternal care may be a particularly important factor in the generation of high self-esteem).

Consistent Parenting:

Healthy families are relatively stable and predictable and the child knows that the parents can be depended upon both physically and emotionally. For example, if a parent says s/he will pick the child up after school, the child can be confident s/he will do so; and if the child is distressed, s/he can depend upon the parent to sooth and comfort him/her; the child knows, too, that if the parent feels the need to discipline him/her, s/he will do so in a fair, reasonable and consistent manner.

Inconsistent Parenting :

In unhealthy families, however, parents may behave towards their children in inconsistent and unpredictable ways. The environment in which the child is compelled to live, therefore, tends to be unstable, chaotic and fraught with potential danger. Because of this, the child is likely to feel constantly anxious – walking on eggshells and fearing what the unpredictable parent may do next.

In such a household, the behaviour of the parent may fluctuate wildly and dramatically (this can be for clinical reasons such as alcoholism, drug addiction, cyclothemia or bipolar disorder). Inconsistency may occur in relation to both physical and emotional care. For example, a parent may leave a lone child at home, promising to be back by 6pm, yet not return until 3 in the morning. And the manner in which the parent uses discipline may be highly unpredictable. Or when the child is distressed, s/he may not be able to depend on the parent for psychological support.

Conclusion :

To reiterate, then, according to research, such inconsistent parenting is associated with those individuals who are on the receiving end of it being placed at higher risk of developing depression and having low self-esteem as adults.

However, to gain a fuller picture, more research needs to be conducted – it is known, for instance, that significant and protracted child abuse puts the abused individual at increased risk of developing a whole range of psychiatric conditions, such as borderline personality disorder (BPD) and complex post traumatic stress disorder (cPTSD), in adulthood; it therefore follows that when inconsistent parental behaviour crosses a certain threshold (i.e. when it amounts to chronic, significant abuse), the seriousness of the implications speak for themselves.

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Effect Of Parents With Low Empathy For Others’ Feelings

Parents with low empathy typically show little or no regret, remorse or guilt when they behave in ways that hurt and harm their children and children of such parents are therefore at particularly high risk of experiencing abuse.

At the extreme end of the scale, those with very low empathy are termed by psychologists as sociopaths or as suffering from anti-social personality disorder (however, this does not mean they will necessarily have been diagnosed or have broken the law – many such individuals can function well on a superficial level, seem charming on the surface and have cultivated a public persona that very effectively disguises their disorder; they may even strike the outside world as ‘model citizens’).

Other personality traits (on top of lack of feelings of guilt and superficial charm referred to above) of the sociopath include the following:

  • egocentricity
  • unreliability
  • dishonesty
  • an inability to form long-lasting relationships
  • superficial emotions
  • lack of awareness/concern regarding the harmful effects of their behaviour on others
  • poor ability to make long-term plans
  • experiences abnormally low levels of anxiety (so can be good at jobs that require a strong nerve such as surgery)

People with very low empathy, such as sociopaths, tend not to be easy to change ; they are also, as implied above, often very hard to detect – this makes them all the more potentially dangerous.

POSSIBLE BRAIN DIFFERENCES :

One of the possible reasons why sociopaths may find it difficult to change is that research suggests they may be suffering from brain abnormalities (specifically, in the region of the brain responsible for giving rise to feelings of empathy for others, as, indeed, one may expect). However, much more research still needs to be conducted before a full picture can be built up of both biological and environmental causes (and, indeed, of how these two categories of causes interact, of course).

LATEST RESEARCH :

It is worth noting, however, that (at the time of writing), the latest research suggests that sociopaths may not so much lack empathy as have an abnormal ability to suppress it (Keysers et al. 2012).

HOW THE SOCIOPATH CAN BECOME AGGRESSIVE TOWARDS THE EMPATH :

First, an EMPATH  can be defined as a particularly sensitive and perceptive individual who is often the first to intuit that there is something ‘wrong’ with the sociopath. Such individuals can represent a threat to the sociopath as they have the potential to expose him/her (the sociopath) and challenge his/her manipulative behavior.

Frequently, due to this threat, the sociopath turns on/ becomes aggressive towards / attacks / tries to discredit the empath in an attempt to stop him/her (the empath) exposing him/her (the sociopath) and speaking the truth about his/her (the sociopath’s) behaviour.

HOW THE SOCIOPATH ENLISTS THE SUPPORT OF THE APATH :

In order to try to defeat, or, even, psychologically destroy the empath, the sociopath will often enlist the support of the apath (or the support of several apaths).

An apath is someone who lacks the judgment or insight to perceive the sociopath’s malevolent manipulative behaviour, or someone who is too apathetic and morally cowardly to care about it or do anything about it. If, on top of this, the apath bears the empath a grudge, the perverse collusion between the sociopath and apath may prove particularly devastating.

The psychological theorists, McGregor and McGregor, who originally formulated the above theory, termed this dynamic the sociopath-empath-apath triad. By way of illustration, the concept could apply to a family in the following manner :

  • mother = sociopath
  • youngest son = empath
  • oldest son = apath
  • father = apath

In the above example, there are two apaths; however, in other situations there may be just one or three or more.

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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).

 

 

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Parental Antipathy Towards The Child And Psychological Abuse

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)

– humiliation

– 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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Subtle And Insidious Verbal Abuse Parents May Use Against Their Children

subtle types of verbal abuse

Because I self-harmed as a child, causing skin lacerations which would evolve into (admittedly unsightly) scabs on my arms, legs and shoulders, my older brother took to calling me ‘Scabby‘ and my mother quickly followed suit.

I was also an extremely sensitive child, so when my older brother wasn’t referring to me ‘Scabby’ he would refer to me as ‘Poof‘ (presumably on, the rather obviously, erroneous assumption that if a person were sensitive it follows he must necessarily be gay).

If I was upstairs doing my homework (which I threw myself into as a means of psychological escape) and dinner was ready my mother might shout out ‘Scabby, dinner’s ready‘ and my brother might chip in, ‘Yes, come along now Poof!’ (I remember, quite clearly, too, how this, or similar scenarios, would then be followed by my mother’s delighted, even triumphant, laughter (or perhaps ‘cackling’ might be a more apposite word).

If I protested, I was aggressively informed (palpably disingenuously) that they were only ‘teasing’ and to ‘stop making a silly and unnecessary fuss’. I would then be derided, ridiculed and mocked for being so ‘thin-skinned.’

But I have written about this before, so I will not go on.

The reason I do again refer to this treatment by my mother and older brother is that, in this article, I want to look at different ways in which parents may be verbally abusive towards their children. Whilst what I refer to above is blatant verbal abuse, parents may also employ far more subtle and insidious forms of such abuse.

Below I list some examples of how parents may be verbally abusive towards their child, including forms of verbal abuse which are less blatant than the example I’ve provided from my own personal experience (above).

 

 

EXAMPLES OF VERBAL ABUSE :

 

  •  UNDERMINING / DISPLAYING DERISION

For example, a child may tell his/her parent s/he has come top of a test, only to meet with the sarcastic response, ‘Oh, and I suppose you think you’re some kind of genius now, do you?’

  • THREATENING

For example, the parent may say to the child, ‘If you carry on behaving like this, I’m going to put you into care / up for adoption’

  • DENIAL / INVALIDATION OF CHILD’S FEELINGS

An example of this might be a parent saying something very hurtful to the child and then denying it was hurtful (possibly due to lack of insight and empathy or as a deliberate form of further provocation)

  • EXPRESSING ANGER ABUSIVELY

For example, a parent may scream at his/her child with his/her face only centimeters away from that of the child’s

  • EXPRESSING CONTEMPT / DISGUST

For example, saying to the child, ‘Just looking at you makes me feel physically sick’

  • TRIVIALIZING

For example, a parent responding to his/her child who has just announced proudly that s/he come second in a math test, by saying, ‘What’s so great about that? I always came top of my class. Second place is for losers.’

  • BLOCKING

For example, a parent may simply refuse to listen to his/her child’s concerns but instead treat these concerns dismissively and as being insignificant and tedious, perhaps by yawning theatrically and saying to the child in an exaggeratedly bored tone, ‘Oh, you sound like a broken record’, particularly when, by any reasonably objective standard, the child’s concerns are significant

  • DIVERTING

For example, the parent may evasively and deliberately change the subject when his/her child brings up significant concerns

  • WITHHOLDING

This refers to when a parent never emotionally engages with his/her child. For example, all verbal interaction may be dry, superficial and largely confined to factual information / statements like, ‘Put your bike away in the garage’ or, ‘Wash your hands’, or, ‘Go to bed now.’

  • COUNTERING

For example, the parent may perpetually and aggressively contradict the child’s views and opinions, gradually sapping away his/her confidence and self-belief

  • DISMISSING THE CHILD’S FEELINGS

For example, a child may cry after his/her parent has said something hurtful to him/her only to be criticized for being ‘too sensitive‘ or for ‘over-reacting.

  • ‘HUMOUR’

For example, a parent may say something very hurtful to his/her child and then attempt to exonerate him/herself by claiming, ‘It was only a joke’ and, then, perhaps, accusing the child of having, ‘No sense of humour,’ thus adding insult to injury.

 

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