The UK government is considering up-dating law whereby more individuals could be charged and convicted of EMOTIONAL CRUELTY against children. Types of behaviour that may constitute emotional cruelty include belittling, isolating, rejecting, humiliating, ignoring and corrupting (eg into criminal and/or anti-social behaviour).
Furthermore, any adult behaviour which impaired the child’s intellectual, emotional or behavioural development could also be included.
A problem, however, will be deciding when exactly an adult behaviour such as those referred to above is significant and damaging enough to be defined as a criminal act – inevitably, a degree of subjectivity would invariably be involved, unless a case is obviously clear-cut.
Research suggests that emotional abuse is at least as damaging as other forms of abuse; however, the picture can become blurred as, often, emotional abuse will occur alongside other types of abuse.
EFFECTS OF EMOTIONAL CRUELTY :
Possible effects of emotional cruelty on the child include :
– effects on mental development
– effects on emotional development
– effects on behaviour
Let’s look at each of these in turn :
1) Mental development
– language development may be impaired
– there may be a link between emotional abuse and the development of ATTENTION DEFICIT HYPERACIVITY DISORDER (ADHD). However, further research is required in order to address this question further
2) Emotional development
The child may :
– develop clinical depression
– become extremely angry/aggressive (this may be directed at the parents/primary care-givers and/or displaced onto others who are not the primary cause of the anger)
– have suicidal thoughts
– have great difficulty controlling his/her emotions or develop an inability to feel and express a large range of emotions
– increasingly lack confidence (eg due to being constantly belittled and made to feel worthless by parents/primary carer)
– find it difficult in adulthood to form and maintain relationships (eg due to not having received affection and love him/herself during childhood)
– have a lower satisfaction with life in general in adulthood
– lack social skills and have few friends
The child may :
– not care very much about how s/he acts or what happens to him/her (psychologists refer to this as : NEGATIVE IMPULSE CONTROL). Consequently, this may lead to risk-taking behaviours such as running away, stealing or bullying others
– develop an eating disorder
– develop obsessions/compulsions
– develop severe anxiety
– become very ‘clingy’ due to insecurity of home life
– drink excessively/use narcotics
– act in ways that are either consciously or sub-consciously designed to make other people dislike him/her – psychologists refer to this as SELF-ISOLATING BEHAVIOUR.
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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)
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Copyright 2014 Child Abuse, Trauma and Recovery