Tag Archives: Effects Of Emotional Abuse

Emotional Cruelty – A New Law To Help Reduce It


emotional abuse and the law

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.




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

3) Behaviour:

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

– self-harm

– 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.









Above eBooks now available on Amazon for instant download. CLICK HERE



David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)





Combined Effects of Divorce and Emotional Abuse on The Child.


Sometimes, when parents divorce, the child finds s/he is left to be brought up by a dysfunctional parent, perhaps because the single-parent is under enormous stress and/or suffers from mental illness. Indeed, this was the situation I found myself in from the age of eight, so I know how serious the effects on the child may be. Specifically, in this article, I wish to look at the potential adverse effects on the child of being brought up in a single-parent family in which the single-parent is emotionally/verbally abusive towards him/her. In my own case, my mother would refer to me as ‘scabby’ (due to the wounds I incurred through self-harming) and ‘poof’ (I was ultra-sensitive), amongst much else.


About 80%of those who go on to develop borderline personality disorder (BPD) have been the victims of child abuse – the most common form of child abuse that BPD sufferers experienced during their childhoods is EMOTIONAL AND VERBAL ABUSE. Such abuse can absolutely devastate the individual’s self-esteem.

Three common forms of emotional and verbal abuse are :

1) Unavailability

2) Domination

3) Degradation

Let’s look at each of these in turn :

1) Unavailability – this refers to when the parent is much more concerned with their own lives than with the emotional welfare of the child. Such parents show their child little encouraging interest or positive attention, and very little warmth and affection, even in times of need.

2) Domination – this occurs when a parent controls the child with menacing behaviour, threats and general intimidation.

3) Degradation – this is when the parent constantly undermines the child, including over-focusing upon, and over-emphasizing, misbehaviour. Very often, this results in the child becoming convinced that s/he is a ‘bad’ person (see also my article on this by clicking here).

Often, too, the abuse is directed at the child more indirectly and subtly (though, often, it’s not all that subtle!) through body language and facial expressions (eg by looking contemptuous – being treated with contempt is especially devastating – of the child or full of hatred towards him/her). Such treatment can be extremely damaging (especially, of course, if it is frequent and repetitive), and the potential psychological damage it can do should in no way be underestimated.



The picture below shows some of the psychological conditions the child may eventually develop as a result of emotional/verbal abuse.




What if the child who is suffering such verbal and emotional abuse lives in a one parent family, due to divorce, so that there is no other parent around to protect him/her? Clearly, in such a situation, it is overwhelmingly probable that the psychological damage done to the child will be all the more profound.

Many studies have been conducted upon the effects of divorce on children ; these include :

– deep distress

– extreme separation anxiety

– depression

– anxiety

– anger / anti-social behaviour

– intense fears of further abandoment

– greatly increased neediness

– age regression (click here to read my article on this)

If, on top of the effects of divorce, not only does the child not receive support and affection, but is actually verbally and emotionally abused by the remaining parent, the result can be massive psychological trauma.


www.huffingdonpost.com – Article entitled ‘Adult Children of Divorce’ – CLICK HERE

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

Why Is Emotional Abuse So Harmful?

effects of emotional abuse

What Does Research Into Emotional Abuse Tell Us?

Research shows that emotional abuse is just as damaging as physical or sexual abuse (although it is only relatively recently that this has been acknowledged). In this article, I want to look at some of the reasons that its effects can be so devastating.

Emotional abuse not only negatively affects the child at the time it is going on (by lowering his/her self-esteem and causing him/her to live in a constant state of uncertainty and fear, for example), but, if there is no therapeutic intervention, leads to a deeply unhappy adulthood as well.

When a person has grown up in an environment which is emotionally abusive, his/her adult experiences will be viewed through the negative filter which was laid down during his/her childhood. This, in turn, is likely to lead to maladaptive (unhelpful) behaviours in adult life which may well jeopordise his/her career prospects, relationships and physical health, for example.


If as a child, you lived in an emotionally unstable environment, as I did with my mother until I was thirteen (when I was made to leave to go and live with my father and step-mother) you may, as I did, have felt that you were robbed of security and value.

As children, we desperately needed consistency and the knowledge that we were unconditionally accepted and valued by those who were supposed to deeply care for us. But, because an emotionally unstable environment is one which is devoid of consistency, children brought up in such a home never learn what to expect (their parent’/carers’ behaviour can wildly fluctuate in unpredictable ways) they are never able to feel the environment is under control – they never know what might happen next or what lies ahead; there is constant uncertainty and fear about how they will be treated. Anything seems possible. There exists in such children a permanent state of nervous anticipation, if not outright terror.

If there seem to be no boundaries on the parents’/carers’ behaviour, fear is the result. There is never a sense of safety. There is never a sense of securiy. The child can never relax. At any moment, unprovoked, can come verbal or physical violence. There develops a never ending sense of dread, there is always the question of how far the abuse might go. There is never a truly safe moment.


I will end this article with a short list and summary of some of the possible main damaging effects of emotional abuse. They are:

– a necessity to be in a state of constant hypervigilence; this will often lead to acute sensitivity and easily triggered hostility (attack, in this case, being a form of defense)

– if, as children, we are constantly told we are in the wrong, this can lead to procrastination, indecision and inaction (we become constantly concerned anything we try will turn to disaster)

– if we are constantly provoked, we may start reacting with outbursts of rage

– being constantly treated in an unfair way can lead us to become obsessed with getting justice

– the constant psychological strain can lead to a state of emotional exhaustion – this can easily result in apathy and depression (including losing motivation and an inability to derive any pleasure from activities or social interactions)

– being perpetually criticized can lead to feelings of insecurity, shame and guilt



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