Why Parents Emotionally Abuse and Its Effects

 why parents emotionally abuse


To begin this article, it is worth revisiting what is meant by parental emotional abuse. According to the psychologist, Barlow (2010), emotional abuse of children by parents may take the following forms:

– the parent is emotionally unavailable to the child (click here to read my article on emotionally unavailable parents).

– the parent interacts with the child in a manner that is inappropriate to the child’s developmental stage. This may mean expecting the child TO COPE WITH THINGS/BEHAVE IN WAYS s/he is not emotionally mature enough to or speaking and acting in ways in front of the child that are inappropriate given the child’s stage of emotional development.

– not regarding the child as an individual with his/her own unique needs – eg. by instead treating the child as a kind of ‘extension of the self’ to meet own (ie parent’s) selfish needs such as emotional support (this is sometimes known as ‘parentifying’ the child- click here to read my article on this).

–  failure to encourage the child to become emotionally adaptive (eg to make friends and socialise positively with peers)

– intentionally scaring, demeaning, verbally abusing, terrorising, rejecting, isolating, exploiting, corrupting, ignoring the child



Reasons for this include:

– the parent does not understand the normal developmental stages of the child

– poor bonding has taken place between the child and the parent

– the parent is to exhausted by work/too involved with own life to be emotionally available to the child

– parent forgets to give the child praise and encouragement or is not aware of the importance of doing so

– the parent expects the child to act as his/her carer (either emotionally or practically)

– parents take out their own anger and frustration on the child

– the parent is suffering from stress (eg because of financial worries caused by unemployment

– the parents themselves were brought up by poor role models



The child may be:

– withdrawn

– prone to dramatic behavioural changes

– anxious

– clingy

– depressed

– aggressive

– suffer from sleep problems (insomnia, nightmares, night terrors)

– suffer from an eating disorder

– wet the bed

– soil clothes

– take dangerous risks

– miss school

– develop obsessive behaviours

– become dependent upon drugs and/or alcohol

– start to self-harm

– develop suicidal ideation

– bully other children

– mistreat animals

– suffer impaired language development

– have problems controlling emotions

– develop inappropriate emotional responses

– develop problems and expressing emotions

– become prone to intense, angry outbursts (especially if ridiculed/berated at home)

– become unable to form healthy relationships with others (particularly if deprived of love/care/affection at home)

– have low life I satisfaction

– develop physical/psychosomatic health problems

– lose self-respect/not care how they act/not care how they are perceived by others

– not care what happens to them

– intentionally (or due to subconscious motivation) alienate themselves from others/self-isolate by behaving in ways that make others dislike them



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

About David Hosier MSc

Holder of MSc and post graduate teaching diploma in psychology. Highly experienced in education. Founder of childhoodtraumarecovery.com. Survivor of severe childhood trauma.

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