Tag Archives: Emotional Abuse Of Children

What Factors Increase Child’s Risk Of Emotional Maltreatment?


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)

‘Humor’: How Parents May Use It To Emotionally Wound Their Children


How can parents’ use of ‘humor’ potentially hurt their children?

I remember when I was very young, perhaps 3 or 4 years of age, my father would ‘play fight’ with me. For instance, he would ‘scissor’ me between his legs, exerting enough pressure for it to be painful, or, his speciality, hold me down and tickle me relentlessly to the point, in fact, when I would tearfully BEG him to stop. Laughing and crying at the same time was a peculiar sensation.

Most bizarrely, too, and, retrospectively, disturbingly, he once told me (again I’d have been about 4 years old), that if I misbehaved he would take down my shorts and underwear and lift me up over the garden fence so the neighbours could see my naked lower body and laugh at me. Disconcertingly odd behaviour on his behalf, surely?

The ‘tickling’ (‘tickling’ can actually be used as a form of torture, by the way, so don’t underestimate its potential effects – just because the victim’s laughing doesn’t mean s/he’s enjoying it!) was carried out by my father under the guise of ‘playing around’ as, to a much lesser degree (I took the threat seriously), perhaps was the threat to humiliate me in front of the neighbours.

Looking back now, it is clear to me both acts were, in fact, acts of mild sadism, even though my father may have claimed (I never brought the subject up whilst he was alive, which I regret) he was just ‘kidding around’.


Parents Who Use Destructive ‘Humor’:

Indeed, many parents emotionally wound their children under the guise of ‘kidding around’ or ‘just trying to be humorous.’

Destructive, hurtful or harmful humor is usually an expression of underlying negative feelings such as hatred, anger, hostility, resentment or, as in the case of the personal examples that I’ve provided above, sadism. 

Often, too, these underlying negative feelings have not been caused by the victim of the destructive humor, but by others who the user of the destructive humor is not in a position to inact revenge upon – instead, s/he displaces the underlying negative feelings onto an innocent victim.

There are several categories of harmful and destructive humor which include the following:

– ridicule/sarcasm

– put-downs/derision/belittling

– ‘humor’ that demeans and devalues an individual

– sarcasm

– sexist/racist/otherwise offensively discriminatory ‘jokes’

– practical jokes

– tickling

It should be borne in mind, also, that if we complain about being the object of cruel and hurtful humor, we may find ourselves accused of ‘not being able to take a joke’, or of ‘being oversensitive’ , that it was ‘just teasing’ or, especially irritatingly, being told that we need to ‘lighten up.’

There are, however, various methods that can be used to discourage others from using destructive humor. These include:

– don’t ‘play along’ by joining in the laughter just because you feel pressured to do so

– bluntly state you do not find the ‘joke’ funny or that it’s not your kind of humor (people who laugh at everything, paradoxically, often have little sense of humor and certainly lack discernment)

– start defining limits and boundaries if someone continually oversteps the mark by making so-called ‘funny’ comments are hurtful

– ask the individual to explain precisely why s/he considers what s/he said to be amusing

– respond with bored indifference, perhaps even feigning agreement.


With all these strategies, it is usually best to stay calm and not to display anger, if at all possible.



You may also wish to read my related article entitled : Being Constantly Humiliated By Parents May Damage Brain’s Corpus Callosum.



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

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




Were You The Emotional Caretaker Of A Parent As A Child?


I have written elsewhere that, not long after my parents divorced when I was eight, I, in effect, became my highly unstable mother’s emotional caretaker – a kind of pint-sized, fledgling, incipient counsellor, if you will. Indeed, even before I had reached my teens, my mother would, not infrequently, refer to me as her ‘Little Psychiatrist’ (apologies to those readers who have read that in other articles on this site – I mention it again for the enlightenment of new readers).

Being cast into such a role when very young, especially after a divorce of parents, when it is the child’s emotional needs that should be paramount, is, of course, extremely developmentally inappropriate. Indeed, many children who have been placed in such a position have, as a result, developed psychological difficulties, mental health issues and mental illnesses as adults, including:

(NB.  The above list is not exhaustive).

The child who becomes the emotional caretaker of a parent is placed under severe stress and is enormously overburdened, during a period of his/her life which ought to be made as relatively care-free as is reasonably feasible.

Some children in this situation may appear to be coping on the surface ; for example, during the period I was caring for my mother, I did well at school due, at least in part, to the fact that I would immerse myself in school work as a coping mechanism : a diversion, distraction and temporary escape from obsessively ruminating on my mother’s psychological problems.

Also, I was fastidiously tidy around the house. For example, my mother demanded the bathroom always be left spotless and in perfect order. For instance, the towels had to be hung back on the towel rail perfectly symmetrically so that their ends lined up exactly and ran completely parallel to the floor. However, this meticulousness on my part was due mainly to fear of my mother’s wrath should I fail to complete such tasks with military precision.

The child who is the emotional caretaker is forced to grow up far too soon and to shoulder responsibilities which s/he is not emotionally mature enough to deal with. In this sense, if the parent constantly expects the child to be his / her emotional caretaker, it equates to a form of emotional abuse. In effect, the child is turned into the parent’s parent (the child is, in the language of psychologists, parentified), forgoing his/her essential emotional needs as a child : in effect, his/her childhood is stolen. This can have a seriously detrimental effect upon child development.

Narcissistic parents who regard the child as, essentially, someone who exists solely to satisfy their their own (i.e. the parent’s) emotional needs may be particularly prone to exploiting the child by turning him / her into their emotional carer (you can read one of my articles about narcissistic parents by clicking here).


The above ebook, Childhood Trauma : Emotional Abuse, is now available for immediate download from Amazon. Click here.

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

Childhood Trauma Recovery