Tag Archives: Emotional Abuse

Active And Passive Emotional Abuse

Active And Passive Emotional Abuse 1

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

  1. PASSIVE EMOTIONAL ABUSE
  2. ACTIVE EMOTIONAL ABUSE

Let’s look at each of these in turn :

PASSIVE EMOTIONAL ABUSE :

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 :

DEVELOPMENTALLY INAPPROPRIATE INTERACTION WITH THE CHILD :

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.

EMOTIONAL UNAVAILABILITY :

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’).

NEGATIVE ATTITUDES :

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‘).

NOT TREATING THE CHILD AS AN INDIVIDUAL :

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.

Active And Passive Emotional Abuse 2

ACTIVE EMOTIONAL ABUSE :

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

 

 

ALL OTHER ARTICLES ON EMOTIONAL ABUSE AND NEGLECT :

 

RETURN HOME TO ABOUT CHILDHOOD TRAUMA RECOVERY

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

Vast Majority Of Parental Maltreatment Of Children Unacknowledged

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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).

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Examples Of Unacknowledged/Ignored Parental Maltreatment Of Children :

The above list, of course, is not exhaustive.

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

Dysfunctional Ways Parents May Seek To Over-Control Children

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Controlling Parents

I outline some of the most common ways in which parents may attempt to exert excessive control over their children below :

Emotional Enmeshment :

This occurs when a parent is intensely and overwhelmingly emotionally involved with his/her child so that, rather than seeing the child as an individual with his/her own thoughts, feelings, likes and dislikes, views him/her as an extension of him/herself.

The parent who emotionally enmeshes the child may be over-dependent on him/her :

  • in relation to seeking advice that the child is not mature enough to give (e.g. a parent asking a ten year old for advice on romantic relationships),
  • for companionship,
  • for psychological counselling.

Such parents may also interfere inappropriately in the child’s life and fail to respect his/her boundaries.

Divorced / single parents may even expect their child to serve as a kind of ‘spouse substitute’ (most frequently in emotional terms).

You can read mt article on EMOTIONAL INCEST, which is closely related to the above, by clicking here.

Parentification :

Emotionally immature parents may expect their child to act as a kind of substitute parent – you can read my article about how parents may ‘parentify’ their child by clicking here.

 

Perfectionism :

Perfectionist parents may constantly insist upon laying down myriad petty, unnecessary and, perhaps, seemingly arbitrary rules and regulations (for example, my father used to be obsessed with making sure I held my cutlery in precisely the right way – apparently I would ‘mistakenly’ hold my knife ‘like a pen’ which would cause my father an absurdly disproportionate level of unnecessary angst more appropriate to me holding a live grenade in a way that would allow it imminently to detonate.

Living in such a household can put the child into a constant state of tension, or, even, hypervigilence, leading him/her constantly to anticipate the next shaming and disheartening criticism.

Perfectionist parents may also psychologically damage their children by expecting them to achieve in sports, academia, music etc in ways that are unreasonable and unrealistic. In relation to this, they may only offer their children love and approval when they excel, withholding such love and approval the rest of the time.

These types of parents may, too, strongly disapprove of their children expressing particular emotions such as anger or sadness, perhaps to the extent that they even ridicule their children for doing so.

Micromanagement :

The parent who micromanages their child may be unnecessarily and inappropriately involved in what a child eats or how a child dresses. Such parents may also interfere in superfluous and counter-productive ways with the child’s school life (e.g. visiting the school to complain to teachers about the child’s grades or about the child not making a particular school sport’s team). Or they may not respect their child’s privacy (e.g. constantly checking their child’s room for no good reason, looking through their diary or unnecessarily texting their child whilst s/he is at school to ‘check up’ on him/her in a way the child finds oppressive).

Such parenting is also sometimes referred to as ‘helicopter parenting’, a term originally coined by Dr. Haim Ginott in the late 1960s.

Coercive Control :

The term ‘coercive control’ was first coined by the Duluth Abuse Intervention Project (DAIP) but the concept can also be applicable to the parent-child relationship. The DAIP propose that coercive control can take many forms which include :

  • intimidation (including threatening body language and facial expressions)
  • humiliation
  • isolation
  • minimizing the level of abuse
  • denying any abuse has taken place
  • blaming the victim for the perpetrator’s abuse
  • homophobia
  • coercion and threats

Parents Who Use Their Child For ‘Narcissistic Supply’ :

The concept of narcissistic supply stems from psychoanalytic theory. A parent in need of narcissistic supply may emotionally exploit his/her children by overly depending upon them to express their admiration of the him/her (the parent), to emotionally support him/her and to bolster his/her self-esteem. To read my article about narcissistic parents, click here.

 

RESOURCE :

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

 

When Parents Threaten Their Child With Violence

When Parents Threaten Their Child With Violence 4

I have written elsewhere about how my mother was prone to unpredictable, unprovoked outbursts of extreme hostility when I was very young but it is only now I feel I want to be a little more specific – something has prevented me from going into detail up until now, although that ‘something’ is very hard to define, despite the fact I have (I hope!) gained a fair amount of insight into my past and its effects upon me.

When she was angry my mother’s verbal rage knew no limits ; her frequently repeated threats or hurtful statements included :

  • ‘I feel evil towards you! Evil!’ (The second ‘evil’ delivered in a particularly melodramatic, emphatic and malevolent tone)
  • ‘I feel I could knife you!’
  • ‘I feel murderous towards you!’  (or, if I was ‘lucky’, she’d be slightly more restrained and scream at me the rather more banal phrase, ‘I wish to Christ I’d never bloody had you!’ (though delivered in a tone of devastating conviction and palpable authenticity; one could almost feel the hot waves of hatred emanating from her).

(There may well be still worse examples which I have either repressed or which occurred when I was too young for them to form long-term memories – I simply can’t know; but this, of course, is true of everyone).

At the time, being on the receiving end of these, how shall I put it, rather less than maternally loving statements, I think I felt very little; just numb, in fact, as if everything had gone hazy and foggy. It seems I must have mentally shut down as a form of self-preservation; this is a psychological defense mechanism I now know to be called ‘dissociation‘).

For years, even decades, I kept these memories at the very back of my mind, so to speak, but, of course, that will have only worsened their psychological effect.

It is only now, decades later (I was about twelve-years-old when my mother’s verbal aggression was at its most vehement, just as I was entering puberty) that I feel ready to attempt to mentally process such experiences. However, painful this may be, avoiding doing so is likely to be even more so.

Very few of the articles I publish on this site are so personal and I apologize for, once again, indulging myself. However, my next post will be more objective and its topic directly related this one : ‘The Effects Of Parental Threats Of Violence Upon The Child.’

 

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

Parental Alienation Syndrome

Parental Alienation Syndrome 5
 
In simple terms, parental alienation syndrome (Gardner, 1985), refers to the psychological effects on the child when one parent (in custody of the child) manipulates this child into rejecting the other parent (not in custody of the child) during or after separation and/or divorce proceedings.

At its worst, it involves the parent with custody of the child actively and maliciously attempting to programme and brainwash the child into hating the other parent.

At the other end of the scale, however, it can be that the parent with custody does not realise the effect their negative comments about their ex-partner are having on the child (i.e. causing the child, too, to develop a negative attitude towards the non custodial parent).

In any event, the result is, according to parental alienation theory, that the child internalises the custodial parent’s negative view of the non-custodial parent.

In extreme cases, the custodial parent may even brainwash the child into believing that the non-custodial parent is guilty of having abused him/her (the child) even when this is untrue. A famous example of this is American writer/director Woody Allen’s allegation that his ex-partner, Mia Farrow, was guilty of such malicious manipulation of their daughter.

Darnell’s Three Types Of Alienating Parent :

According to Douglas Darnell (1998) there are three types of alienating parent ; these are as follows :

  • Naive
  • Active 
  • Obsessed 

Let’s look at each of these in turn :

1) Naive :

Darnell suggests that the vast majority of parents will occasionally act as alienators by inadvertently and non-maliciously deprecating the other parent to the child. However, in the case of these naive alienators, such occurrences are aberrations in the context of the parent’s overall attitude to the child’s relationship with the other parent, which is supportive and non-undermining.

2) Active :

Darnell states that active alienators tend to have good intentions and realize the importance of supporting the child’s relationship with the other parent but fail to always act according to these intentions due to losing control of their behavior as a result of feelings of intense anger and / or extreme hurt.

3) Obsessed :

Obsessed alienators convince themselves that the other parent is inherently bad and a danger (psychologically or physically) to the child and then undertakes a ‘campaign’ to turn the child against this parent. 

 

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What Are The Effects Of Such Manipulation Upon The Child?

Gardner suggests the manipulated child who develops parental alienation syndrome may be affected in the following ways:

– idealisation of the custodial parent

– demonization of the non-custodial parent

– belief that his/her (the child’s) feelings of unequivocally hatred towards the non-custodial parent stem from his/her own judgement alone and have not been influenced by the custodial parent

– absence of any feelings of guilt about his/her (the child’s) expressions of hatred towards the non-custodial parent

 

Initially, Gardner proposed that, in the vast majority of cases, it was the mother who alienated the child from the father. However, he later retracted this hypothesis and stated that both mothers and fathers were equally likely to practice such malicious manipulation of the child’s feelings, beliefs and behaviour.

Gardner also stressed that parental alienation syndrome only applies when the castigated parent is not guilty of any child abuse.

Controversy:

It should be noted, however, that the validity of Gardner’s theory of parental alienation syndrome is disputed amongst mainstream psychologists and is not an officially recognized childhood psychological disorder at the time of writing.

However, that does not change the fact that such manipulation of children, and such manipulation’s deleterious psychological effects, are very far from uncommon.

You may also wish to read my post entitled : Divorce : Signs Children Are Being Used As Pawns Or Weapons.

Resource:

Hypnosis download to boost sasseriveness Ten Steps To Absolute Assertiveness.

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

Emotionally Immature Parents : Effects On Their Children.

emotional-abuse-ebook

Emotionally Immature Parents : Effects On Their Children. 6

The Emotionally Immature Parent:

Emotionally immature parents fail to connect with their children on an emotional level.

This can leave their children feeling emotionally insecure, existentially lonely, empty and hollow.

The emotions these children feel remain invalidated by the emotionally immature parent; indeed, the parent is frequently so self-obsessed that he fails to notice the child’s feelings and emotional needs.

However, as the child generally has no point of comparison, s/he may remain oblivious to the fact that s/he is being emotionally neglected.

As a result, the child might feel that s/he is somehow very different from his/her peers (perhaps s/he is depressed, anxious, severely lacking in confidence  and withdrawn) without understanding why this is. Very sadly, such a child may, wrongly, blame himself, believing him/herself to be somehow intrinsically unlikable.

When such a child becomes an adult, he may continue to be severely lacking in confidence, particularly with regard to his ability to form relationships. In fact, he may develop a powerful fear of relationships, believing that the rejection s/he experienced as a child would be quickly repeated in any incipient adult relationship he managed to develop.

Due to this avoidance of relationships, the individual can perpetuate his/her feelings of emotional loneliness indefinitely throughout adulthood.

 

Some Typical Characteristics Of Emotionally Immature Parents :

  1. egocentrism
  2. poor ability to empathise with and to understand emotional experiences of their children
  3. may focus on physical needs of child at expense of his emotional needs
  4. shallow, but intense, emotions
  5. may parentify their children
  6. may have a tendency to over-intellectualize
  7. may keep others shut out emotionally, however hard they try to make an emotional connection
  8. may induce anger and rage in their child, due to the frustration and hurt the child feels in response to ‘being kept at arm’s length.’ The child may internalize such anger (i.e. re-direct it at himself,  giving rise to depression, anxiety and irrational self-blame).
  9. may create what has been termed by psychologists ‘emotional contagion.’ ( i.e when the parent is upset she or he upsets everyone else to the point where they feel personally responsible for making him or her feel better ; this may take the form, for example, of protracted sulking).
  10. may be very adept at turning the blame on others. For example, if the child criticises the parent the parent turns the tables and defensively accuses the child of being the real ‘wrong-doer’ (for example, the parent may accuse the child of being ‘judgmental’ and ‘unforgiving’).
  11. the emotionally immature parent may be so self-absorbed and focused on his or her own needs at the expense of the child’s that the child fails to form a strong sense of his own identity. To use an expression coined by the psychologist Bowen (1976) the child may become psychologically ‘de-selfed’.

 

Types Of Emotionally Immature Parents:

 

According to Gibson, PhD, an expert in this field, there are four main types of emotionally immature parents. I provide a very brief description of each of these below:

A) Emotionally Volatile:

Such a parent can exhibit dramatic mood swings and may vacillate, unpredictably, between being too involved with the child’s life and being too remote and withdrawn from him/her. Such a parent may also be prone to extreme over-reactions (for example, becoming excessively, and utterly disproportionately, angry when a child makes a small, innocent mistake).

B) Driven:

For example, such a parent may be a workaholic, obsessed with pursuing his own goals, controlling and a perfectionist’

C) Passive:

This type of parent, according to Gibson, minimises (thus largely invalidating) the child’s emotional problems. If the child is being abused by the other parent, this type of parent might even turn a blind eye to this, preferring not to ‘rock the boat.’ Indeed, such a parent generally takes the ‘line of least resistance’

D) Rejecting:

This type of parent may come to view his or her children as a burden, getting in the way of him/her pursuing his or her own life goals. In this way, the child is both resented and essentially rejected.

Therapy:

Individuals who have been adversely affected by having been brought up by an emotionally immature parent and have developed problems such as anxiety, depression, lack of identity and poor confidence can be helped by various types of psychotherapy; in particular, numerous studies have been conducted showing the effectiveness of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

 

You may also be interested in my article entitled :  EMOTIONAL DETACHMENT DISORDER AND CHILDHOOD TRAUMA

 

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

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.

 

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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

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.

 

RESOURCES :

HELP WITH EMOTIONAL ABUSE (HEALTHYPLACE.COM)

 

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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

 

 

 

 

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