EMOTIONAL ABUSE AND NEGLECT Archives - Childhood Trauma Recovery

Category Archives: Emotional Abuse And Neglect

It is now understood that significant emotional abuse and neglect can be at least as damaging to childhood, psychological development as physical and sexual abuse. These concise articles examine the various forms that such emotional abuse (including very subtle forms) and neglect can take, as well as the potentially devastating consequences for the individual affected.

Effects Of Child Abandonment

What Is Child Abandonment?

Child abandonment can take two main forms :

  1. Literal, physical abandonment (e.g. a mother leaving her baby on a stranger’s doorstep or other place where the baby will be found by a member of the public with the intention that there is no further contact between the mother and her offspring).
  2. Extreme neglect and emotional abandonment over a protracted period of time

Reasons Why A Parent Might Abandon His / Her Child :

What Are The Adverse Effects Of Being Abandoned As A Child?

The possible repercussions for the abandoned child are :

Irrational feelings of guilt relating to having been rejected

Complex posttraumatic stress disorder (Complex PTSD)

Abandonment issues

Separation anxiety

Attachment disorder (e.g. reactive attachment disorder and disorganized attachment disorder)

Dysfunctional adult relationships

Borderline personality disorder (BPD)

‘Clingy’ dependency

Privileged Abandonment? Emotional Effects Of Boarding School On The Child

‘Privileged Abandonment’ :

Whilst attending a boarding school is frequently regarded as a privilege by many in society, research by Duffell highlights the fact that the child’s experience of undergoing such schooling can all too often also involve inducing in him/her profound feelings of abandonment and neglect.

Indeed, Duffell, who has worked with many ex- boarding school pupils who have been adversely psychologically affected by their experience, refers to the concept of ‘privileged abandonment.’

In particular, Duffell highlights the fact that, very often, no matter how emotionally painful the child finds it to be separated from his/her parents, s/he is inhibited from showing such emotion due to the fear of being mocked, ridiculed and bullied by his/her peers as a result.

Usually, too, the child learns that s/he is prevented from reporting any bullying or abuse s/he may suffer whilst at school due to a prevailing culture secrecy and denial as well as fear of potential consequences.

privileged abandonment

Fear Of Appearing Ungrateful :

Because, as alluded to above, so many in society regard those who attend boarding school as ‘privileged’, or, even, ‘spoiled’, this makes it more difficult still for the child at boarding school to complain about feeling abandoned and frightened for fear of giving an impression of ingratitude; this may well especially be the case if the parents manipulate the child by emphasizing the sacrifices they have been compelled to make in order to pay for his/her education.

Denial :

As adults, many individuals may enter a state of denial about the adverse psychological effects their time at boarding school had on them, pushing the emotional torment it caused them at the time out of their conscious minds and below the level of awareness ; this may explain why it is not uncommon for those who suffered considerably as a result of their schooling to send their own children to boarding schools where they may undergo similar experiences of suffering.

Duffell and other researchers suggest that the adverse effects on the individual of attending boarding school may include him/her :

  • developing a disdain for displays of emotion and vulnerability both from others and from him/herself
  • developing a rigid, over-emphasized sense of importance in relation to self-reliance and not being dependent upon others
  • developing a ‘durable’, but ‘brittle’ and ‘defensive’,  personality
  • lack of emotional development due to the necessity, whilst growing up at boarding school. to repress feelings of emotional dependency
  • lack of trust in relationships in adulthood
  • fear of abandonment in adulthood
  • shame about feeling / showing signs of vulnerability / dependence, including within intimate, adult relationships, leading to problems within such relationships

Overcome Fear Of Abandonment : Self Hypnosis Downloads

You may also wish to read my previously published article : Abandonment Issues.

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

Active And Passive Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse of children (sometimes referred to as psychological abuse) by their parents / primary caregivers can be divided into two types :


Let’s look at each of these in turn :


Passive emotional abuse tends to be less obvious and more subtle than active emotional abuse and may therefore operate ‘below the radar‘ and be difficult to precisely identify ; however, its insidious nature can have a devastating effect upon the child’s emotional development. Specific types of passive emotional abuse, as proposed by Barlow, et al., (2010), are shown below :


This can involve expecting the child to do things that s.he is not emotionally equipped to carry out. It can also involve the parent talking about, or doing things, in the presence of the child which s/he (i.e. the child) is not emotionally mature enough to deal with.


This refers to the parent / primary carer being very emotionally detached, distant and cold towards the child, displaying no love or affection (see my article : Effects Of The Emotionally Distant Parent On Their Child’).


This includes the parent not offering the child praise or encouragement and conveying the attitude that they have a low opinion of the child or that the child is ‘bad’ leading the child to internalize such negative views(in relation to this, you may wish to read my article : ‘How The Child’s View Of Their Own ‘Badness’ Is Perpetuated‘).


This can happen when a parent parentifies their child, treats the child, in emotional terms, as a ‘surrogate partner’ (see article on emotional incest‘) or exploits their child as as emotional caretaker’. It involves the parent exploiting the child to fulfil his/her own emotional needs while ignoring the child’s emotional needs.


According to Barlow et al., 2010 and Cawson et al., 2000, active emotional abuse may involve :


  • isolating : the parent may isolate the child physically, socially or emotionally to increase his/her (i.e. the parent’s) level of control over him/her  (i.e. the child) – in relation to this, you may wish to read my article : CONTROLLING PARENTS : THEIR EFFECT ON THEIR CHILDREN.This reduces the child’s ability to compare his/her situation to that of others and to get help. The parent may increase the child’s level of disorientation by also using the technique of ‘gaslighting.’


  • corrupting / exploiting : this involves the parent encouraging the child to behave in antisocial and self-destructive ways thereby reducing his/her ability to socially integrate in an acceptable way






eBook :


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

Effects Of Passive-Aggressive Parents

Having parents who treat us in a passive-aggressive manner can have an extremely adverse effect upon our mental health; indeed, Scott Wetzler PhD, an expert in these matters, based at Montefiore Medical Center, has said, quite unequivocally, that being on the receiving end of passive aggressive behaviour can lead to the victim feeling as if s/he were ‘a crazy person.’

What Is Passive-Aggressive Behaviour?

To sum up in just two words, passive-aggressive behaviour is disguised hostility.

Examples Of Passive-Aggressive Behaviour :

THE SILENT TREATMENT (to read my article on this, click here)

INSULTS AND CRITICISMS MASQUERADING AS HUMOUR (to read my article on this, click here)

– UNDERMINING OUR SENSE OF REALITY / MISREPRESENTING THE TRUTH (this is sometimes referred to as ‘GASLIGHTING’; to read my article on this, click here)

INVALIDATION (related to above, click here to read my article on how our parents can invalidate us and the enormous harm that this can do)

– STONEWALLING – i.e. completely ignoring our point of view, as if we are not worthy of a response, or, even, as if we are ‘beneath their contempt.’

– MANIPULATION (to read my article on the effects of manipulative parents, click here)

– PLACING US IN A ‘DOUBLE BIND’ (the long-term psychological effects of this can be devastating; to read my article about the phenomenon of the double bind, click here)

– CRITICISM PRESENTED AS ‘HELPFULNESS’ OR ‘CONCERN’ (e.g. ‘If you don’t mind my saying so, you’re putting on rather a lot of weight; I only mention it because I’m worried about your health, of course – the last thing I want to do is to offend you or make you feel self-conscious…)

– EXCLUSION – To take an example from my own experience : in the last several years of my (non-) relationship with my father / family/ step-family I was completely excluded from family occasions such as family meals; this is a typical example of passive-aggression and of hurting others through ACTS OF OMISSION) as opposed to by acts of commission.

I remember, on one occasion, my father phoning me up and saying :

Oh, we’re having your [my brother and stepbrother] over to celebrate [my step-mother’s/ my father’s second wife] 60th birthday. Of course, we’d invite you but you wouldn’t want to come, would you?’

This would almost be funny had I not been so acutely, psychiatrically ill at the time, having recently had ECT and had spent five days in a coma following a suicide attempt.

(To be fair to my father, however, it was my stepmother who manipulated him into such behaviour, threatening to leave him if he did not comply with her wishes regarding his relationship with him – a threat that she was ultimately to carry out. To what degree my father allowed himself to be manipulated, because his wishes coincided with hers, I don’t know).

– ACTING WEAK AND POWERLESS to elicit sympathy






– PERPETUAL LATENESS for no obvious reason





(the above list, of course, is not exhaustive – the subtle ways in which individuals can express their hostility are myriad)



– the child may is at risk of growing up with communication problems similar to those of his/her parents and may him/herself develop passive-aggressive ways of interacting with others and find it very difficult expressing anger directly

– the child may feel a profound sense of confusion in relation to the ‘mixed messages’ sent out from the passive-aggressive parent; this can lead to the child growing up not really knowing ‘where s/he stands’ with the passive-aggressive parent and not, therefore, being able to fully trust this parent. This can lead to the child growing up unable to trust other people in general.

– if the child does indeed develop communication problems similar to those of his/her passive-aggressive parents, s/he is also likely, as an adult, to find both forming, and maintaining, interpersonal relationships problematic

depression / anxiety / low self-esteem


Emotional Neglect And Lack Of Love In Childhood May Switch Off Crucial Genes



Emotional Neglect And Epigenetics.


Studies suggest that emotional neglect / emotional deprivation and a lack of warm, affectionate, loving nurture in childhood can, in effect, switch off crucial genes that help us to regulate stress.

This is thought to be due to a phenomenon known as epigenetic modification.


What Is Meant By The Term ‘EPIGENETICS?’

Epigenetic modification refers to the mechanism whereby the way in which genes express themselves can be altered by external, environmental factors (and such changes are then heritable).


Evidence From The Study Individuals Who Had Committed Suicide :

Poulter, et al., 2008 studied the brains of individuals who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and had subsequently committed suicide. He then compared these brains to the brains of healthy individuals (who had died in accidents).

The result of this rather macabre comparison was as follows  :

In the brains of the individuals who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and had subsequently committed suicide, the genes responsible for regulating stress had been, effectively, SWITCHED OFF.


This was NOT found to be the case when the brains of the previously healthy individuals were examined.

It was concluded that the genes responsible for regulating stress in the individuals who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and had subsequently committed suicide may have shut down as A RESULT OF SEVERE STRESS DURING CHILDHOOD AND RESULTANT EPIGENETIC CHANGES


Another, similar study, was conducted by McGowan et al., 2009 

In this study, the researchers examined :

1) the brains suicide victims WHO HAD SUFFERED CHILDHOOD TRAUMA

and compared them with

2) the brains of deceased, mentally healthy individuals

and with

3) the brains of individuals who had committed suicide BUT HAD NOT SUFFERED FROM CHILDHOOD TRAUMA.



It appeared from the results of these examinations that epigenetic changes had occurred in those who had committed suicide and had suffered childhood trauma, but NOT in those who had been mentally healthy prior to death nor in those who had committed suicide but had NOT suffered childhood trauma.



These results add weight to the hypothesis that epigenetic modifications can be caused by emotional neglect / inadequate protection from stress during childhood which may, in turn, increase the risk of the affected individual developing a mental disorder and, ultimately, of committing suicide.


Evidence From Animal Studies

A study by Bagot et al., 2012 found that stress genes involved in the regulation of stress in newborn rats ARE SWITCHED ON BY THE ATTENTIVE LICKING AND GROOMING OF THEIR MOTHERS. So, this study, too, suggests that epigenetic changes may well be related the quality of parental care during postnatal development (although further research is required to ascertain to what degree the findings of this study can be extrapolated to humans).


Implications For Treatment Of Psychological Conditions Related To Childhood Trauma :

Although such research as described above is in its incipient stages, it is hoped that, as such studies accrue, new, effective and innovative ways of treating adult conditions connected to severe stress during crucial stages of early life, psychological development will be created.



eBook :



Above eBook ‘How Childhood Trauma Can Physically Damage The Developing Brain‘, now available for immediate download from Amazon

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



3 Core Unmet Needs Underlying Emotional Pain

emotional pain

3 core unmet needs underlying emotional pain

Core Unmet Needs

Many of us who have suffered significant childhood trauma experience intense emotional pain as adults; such pain may present itself as severe anxiety, depression or anger, for example.

According to Timulak et al., 2012, three core unmet needs underlie such emotional suffering; these are :

  • unmet needs for safety and security
  • unmet needs for love and meaningful connection to others
  • unmet needs for acceptance, validation and recognition by others 

Sadly, such unmet needs frequently stem from growing up in a  dysfunctional family. (To read my previously published article : Dysfunctional Families : Types And Effects, click here).


Core Feelings Associated With Core Unmet Needs :

Timulak elaborates on the above by stating that these three core unmet needs are associated with corresponding core feelings as shown below :

  • unmet needs for safety and security are associated with feelings of fear and insecurity
  • unmet needs for love and meaningful connection to others are associated with feelings of sadness and loneliness
  • unmet needs for acceptance, validation and recognition by others are associated with feelings of shame and worthlessness

emotional pain

Secondary Distress And Obscured Core Unmet Needs And Feelings :

Timulak also alerts us to the fact that when individuals suffering from emotional pain present themselves to therapists, their core unmet needs and corresponding core feelings may be obscured and concealed because these are overlayed by surface, ‘secondary distress’ (i.e. distressing, surface feelings that have their roots in the underlying core unmet needs and associated core feelings).

Examples of such ‘secondary distress’ / ‘surface feelings’, Timulak states, include :

  • feelings of helplessness
  • feelings of hopelessness
  • feelings of depression
  • feelings of anger
  • feelings of anxiety
  • somatisation (e.g. insomnia, physical tension, exhaustion, teeth grinding, stomach pains, chest pains, loss of appetite, headaches, dizziness etc.)

It is important for patients and therapists to consider the possible core issues that may lie beneath adverse surface feelings (secondary distress). Often, these core issues will have their roots in childhood trauma.


Can Emotional Pain Be Treated Like Physical Pain ?


It hardly needs stating that emotional pain can feel unbearable; after all, it drives some to suicide. As well as knowing this from a theoretical perspective, I know from personal experience; I spent five days in a coma in intensive care following a suicide attempt, as I have written about previously in other articles that I have published on this site.

[NB. If you are feeling suicidal, you are strongly advised to contact an appropriately qualified professional].

But what is actually going on in the brain, in physiological terms, to cause such excruciating suffering?

Findings Of Recent Study:

A recent study was conducted on volunteers who were shown a photograph of a partner who had recently rejected them. Whilst looking at the photographs, these volunteers (a little cruelly, it could feasibly be argued!) were told to concentrate upon how badly the rejection made them feel.

Brain scans revealed that whilst the volunteers were focusing on the pain of rejection whilst looking at the photographs, the brain regions that were activated were very similar to those known to be activated by physical pain, in particular:



This suggests that both physical and psychological pain have similar neurological underpinnings.


Above : Image thought to show regions in brain activated in response to painful stimuli.


Implications Of The Above Study For The Treatment Of Psychological Pain:

Traditionally, physical pain and psychological pain have been treated in separate ways :

Traditional Treatment Of Physical Pain :

By medications such as paracetomal, aspirin, ibuprofen, Tylenol

Traditional Treatment Of Psychological Pain :

By medications such as antidepressants and sedatives

However, another study (carried out at the University of British Columbia) involved an experiment in which one group of volunteers had symptoms of anxiety treated using a placebo whilst the other group had symptoms of anxiety treated by the administration of 1000 mg Tylenol.

Results showed that those administered Tylenol had significantly reduced anxiety symptoms when compared to those in the placebo treatment group.


It seems reasonable to conclude, on the basis of the above two studies described above, that not only do physical and psychological pain share common neurological foundations, but that, because of this, some psychological pain (such as that connected with anxiety) may respond to treatments (such as Tylenol, see above) originally intended to combat physical pain.

However, research into this area of study is at an early stage so definitive conclusions must be drawn with caution.


childhood trauma and depression


.Above eBook now available on Amazon for instant download. Click here. (Other titles by David Hosier also available).



David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)


Vast Majority Of Parental Maltreatment Of Children Unacknowledged


Parental Maltreatment Of Children :

Except in very extreme cases, such as severe physical abuse, the vast majority of parental mistreatment of children not only goes unreported, but is unacknowledged and, essentially, ignored (although this situation is gradually improving as people become more educated about the potentially devastating effects of bad parenting).

Emotional Abuse :

In particular, emotional abuse can be very subtle yet profoundly insidious and damaging (more so, even, than physical or sexual abuse) and very frequently goes ‘under the radar’. However, the UK government have recently started to take steps to rectify this travesty (in connection with this, you may wish to read my previously published article entitled : EMOTIONAL ABUSE AND THE LAW).


Examples Of Unacknowledged/Ignored Parental Maltreatment Of Children :

The above list, of course, is not exhaustive.

eBook :


Above eBook, The Devastating Effects Of Childhood Trauma, is now available for instant download from Amazon. Click here, or on the above image, for further details.

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

Being Constantly Humiliated By Parents May Damage Brain’s Corpus Callosum

corpus callosum
damage to corpus callosum

What Is The Corpus Callosum?


The brain is divided into two halves called the RIGHT HEMISPHERE and the LEFT HEMISPHERE. These two halves are connected by a structure called the CORPUS CALLOSUM. (It is located above the thalamus, underneath the cortex, see image below)


corpus callosum


Above : The location of the corpus callosum (marked in orange). Of all the brain’s white matter structures, it is the largest.


What Is The Function Of The Corpus Callosum?


The function of the corpus callosum is to allow communication to take place between the left hemisphere and the right hemisphere ; it facilitates this communication by transmitting neural messages between these two parts of the brain.


What Does The Corpus Callosum Communicate Between The Brain’s Right And Left Hemisphere?


The corpus callosum is responsible for the communication between the two hemispheres of emotion, arousal, sensory information, information relating to motor functions and higher cognitive abilities (including working memory, imagery and consciously controlled – or willed’ – action, amongst others).


The Effect Of Parental Maltreatment On The Corpus Callosum :

A study conducted by McCrory et al., 2011, found that children who were significantly maltreated by their parent (or parents) over a protracted period of time had corpus collosa that were, on average, significantly  smaller than those found in children who had been fortunate enough to have experienced relatively stable and happy childhoods.

 In more specific terms, their (i.e. the maltreated children’s corpus callosa had less thickness of the white fibre area.


Children Who Are Constantly Humiliated By Their Parents May Be At Particular Risk Of Incurring Impaired Development Of Their Corpus Callosa :

Subtle, emotional abuse by parents, due, not least, to its particularly insidious nature,  can be just as damaging, or even more damaging, than more blatant forms of abuse.

Indeed, studies suggest that children of parents who frequently mock and humiliate them are especially likely to sustain damage to the development of their corpus callosa. (To read my previously published article : Humor : How Parents May Use It To Emotionally Wound Their Children, click here.)

The effect of this is to impair communication between the brain’s left and right hemispheres and it is theorized that this may explain why such  children are frequently found to lack confidence in their linguistic skills and/or  to develop difficulties controlling their emotions.

eBook :

emotional abuse book   childhood trauma damages brain ebook

Above eBook now available for instant download from Amazon. Click here for further details.

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

10-Step CoursesGrief and LossPersonal Skills
Addiction HelpHealth IssuesPregnancy and Childbirth
Alternative Cancer TreatmentsHealthy EatingQuit Smoking
Anti AgingHypnosis Download PacksRelationship Help
Anxiety TreatmentHypnosis TrainingRelaxation Techniques
Bad HabitsInterpersonal SkillsSelf Confidence
Children's HypnosisJob SkillsSelf Esteem
Clinical HypnotherapyLearning HelpSexual Problems
Communication SkillsMotivation and InspirationSleep Problems
Dealing with Difficult PeoplePain ReliefSocial Anxiety
Depression Self HelpParenting SkillsSports Performance
Emotional IntelligencePersonal DevelopmentStress Management
Enjoy LifePersonal FinanceThinking Skills
Fears and PhobiasPersonal FitnessWeight Loss
Fun HypnosisPersonal Productivity
%d bloggers like this:
[do_widget id=facebook-likebox-3]