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Effects of Emotional Abuse Research Paper


Child abuse can be defined as actions that cause sexual, emotional or physical harm to children. It also means an action carried out against a child or failure to do something for the child that the parent is expected to do. Most child abusive actions take place at home or in their place of residence.

Some of the child abusive acts also take place in schools. Mostly, child abuse perpetrators are people who are close to children such as parents and caregivers. This paper looks at the various types of child abuse evident in the society and specifically the effects of emotional abuse on children. In this case, it expounds on the long-term and short term effects. It also gives advice to parents who have problems communicating with their children. (Chalk, pg 19)

Types of child abuse

Physical abuse

This is one of the most common abuses inflicted upon children. It is usually characterised by inflicting physical pain or aggression on children. Physical entails actions such as hair pulling, pushing, biting, pinching and slapping. It also includes beating, burning, choking, shaking and hitting.

In most cases, caregivers or parents never intend to abuse children but to correct and punish the child. Various factors such as parents’ social isolation, alcoholism, parental immaturity and domestic violence contribute to physical abuse. Physical abuse can lead to fatalities or physical harm. (Michelle, pg 112)

Sexual abuse

Sexual abuse may include rape, acts of sodomy or incest. There are also other forms of sexual abuse such as child pornography, spying on children when they are in the washroom etc.

Other forms of sexual abuse include fondling or forcing the child to fondle an adult’s private parts. This also includes exposing a child to sexual acts, real or pictures. Sexual abuse can also include using sexually explicit language towards children.

Perpetrators of sexual abuse may be strangers, teaches, fathers, clergies, neighbors, foster parents or even professionals. Children who are sexually abused show signs of fear, over-compliance and seductiveness among other signs. Sexual abuse has adverse effects on children including confusion, anxiety, low self esteem, abusive behaviour towards others and mistrust. It also leads to guilt and in the long-term affected children may not be able to have healthy intimate relationships in their adulthood. (Epstein, pg 273)


This is where a parent or guardian fails to give due care to a child. In this case, the guardian or parent is usually in a position to give the expected care. There are different kinds of neglect in the society today. They include medical, emotional, educational and physical neglect.

Physical neglect is usually characterized by parents’ failure to give adequate shelter, food and clothing to a child. It also includes a situation where a child is usually abandoned, not protected and also not given adequate supervision. This has adverse effects on the child’s psychological and physical well being. It can lead to malnutrition, injuries and on worse situation death. Long- term effects include a child having a very low- self esteem. (Crosson, pg 43)

Educational neglect is a situation where a guardian or parent declines to give necessary education to a child though he or she is financially able. This results in abused child engaging in bad behavior. The child ends up lacking skills for leading a better lifestyle and hence low- self esteem and poverty when he becomes an adult. Medical neglect involves a situation where a child is not given necessary healthcare.

This is even when the caregiver or parent is financially able to meet the need. This can result in disability or even death in extreme cases. This in the long run leads to situations where the abused child faces myriad complications and poor health as an adult. (Michelle, pg 112)

Emotional abuse

Researchers have also noted emotional abuse to be very common in the current society. It involves situations where guardians’ and parents’ speech and actions have adverse effects on children’s emotional development. This can also hamper a child’s social, cognitive and physiological development. Some scholars still refer to emotional abuse as maltreatment of a child that is psychological in nature. This also entails situation where a child’s self esteem, worth and confidence is utterly undermined.

Research shows that in most cases, emotional abuse tends to occur in situations where another form of abuse exists. Emotional abuse is usually known for its adverse effects that are psychiatric in nature as compared to the other types of abuses. There are various actions that can be classified under emotional abuse. They include the following. (Michelle, pg 112)

Verbal assault

In this case, the caregiver or parent verbally harasses a child. Sometimes, this happens because of mistakes done by a child while at other times, a parent may verbally harass without any valid reason. This can happen in situations where the guardian or parent naturally doesn’t like the child. It involves constantly ridiculing the child and more so in the public or when the child is with his peers.

There are also situations where the child is normally belittled by the parent. In such a case, the child is mostly reminded that he is not capable of accomplishing some tasks as his siblings, friends or peers. This demoralizes the child. Verbal assault may also include shaming a child before his peers or when there are visitors.

For instance, a guardian may shame a child who wets the bed while his younger siblings do not. This may be done in the presence of visitors or his friends hence hurting the child emotionally. Many parents and guardians do this with the perception of correcting the child while in essence, they are emotionally abusing him. Some parents may also verbally threaten a child hence verbal assault. This hurts the child’s feelings and emotions though he or she may not speak out. (Michelle, pg 112)


This is also a very common practice among caregivers and parents. A child in this case is mostly barred from having normal social relations with siblings and friends. It may also include barring a child from interacting with adults or other members of the family. It is a practice that is highly notable among step- parents.

For instance, a child born out of wedlock may be isolated from interacting with his siblings. This is very common in situations where the children don’t share a father or a mother. Isolation sometime, this is usually carried out by confining a child indoor. This is such that a child’s movement is highly limited. It is also a practice that has adverse emotional, psychological and social effects on a child. (Raymond, pg 45)


Many parents easily ignore their children not knowing that this is emotional abuse. Ignoring may be practiced by some guardians or parents by assuming that the child does not exist. In this case, other children are normally given responsibilities or are normally asked to do something but the abused child is not.

Sometimes, guardians may bring home gifts for other children and fail to give one. Sometimes guardians fail to call a child by name while addresses the rest by name. This is part and parcel of ignoring a child. The most common is evident when a parent fails to respond to the child or even look at him when being addressed. For instance, a child may call the guardian or parent, but he fails to respond. This also includes failing to take action or meet the needs of the child. (Chalk, pg 19)


This is where a child is normally bullied by the guardian, caregiver or parent. It can also include putting expectations that are unrealistic on the child. For instance, a parent may place unrealistic expectations concerning a child’s performance.

This is common in situations where the child has no potential of achieving the set standards. This is very common among parents who tend to compare their children with others. Sometimes the child may be put in a situation that is chaotic. Terrorizing a child can result in long-term effects on the child. (Michelle, pg 112)


This can be verbal rejection by a parent on ownership of a child. For instance, in situations of marital conflicts, one parent may verbally reject a child claiming, it not his. Sometimes rejection is usually shown where a guardian or caregiver just refuses to touch a child.

In situations of a child born out of wedlock, a mother may refuse to touch the child when they are in conflict with the father’s child. Sometimes it is also shown through caregiver ridiculing a child without any valid reason. In extreme cases, a child can even be denied essential needs such as food, shelter and clothing.

Effects of emotional abuse on children

Emotional abuse as illustrated above has various effects on children. The effects of emotional abuse on children can be classified into three major categories. These include emotional, physical and behavioral effects. (Michelle, pg 112)

Behavioral effects


This is one of the behavioral effects of emotional abuse on children. A child that is emotionally abused will always tend to be quite irritable and respond excessively to stimuli. Such a child gets angry easily, and may not be able to control his emotions. This effect often spills over to adulthood and the person shows irritable behavior.

In this case, the adult tends to overreact even to slight jokes about him. Such a person when wronged may shout and scream about it. The person becomes quite quarrelsome even in conflicts that are very mild. It is common to find such people always angry over small issues. (Chalk, pg 19)


Depression is one of the commonest effects of emotional abuse on children. This is where a child’s feelings are highly affected. Emotional abuse makes children feel very empty. They also feel very sad as compared to other children who are not emotionally abused. They also feel guilty without any tangible reason.

Depression emanating from emotional abuse is mostly characterized by feelings of restlessness, helplessness, hopelessness and worthlessness. Such children start isolating themselves from their peers or even siblings. Some emotionally abused children may even lose appetite or may end up eating too much food. They may also have problems pertaining to digestion, have unexplained fatigue and also have pains. (Raymond, pg 45)


Children who go through emotional abuse always tend to develop the problem of aggression. The most common is physical aggression. They may tend to develop hostility towards their peers. In this case, such children may bully their friends or siblings by pinching, kicking, beating or even pushing them. Some of them may exhibit aggression towards strangers. They also fight at any slight provocation.

Low-self esteem

This is also another behavioral effect of emotional abuse in children. Research shows that children who go through emotional abuse have low self worth. This tends to spill over to their adulthood. This is where a child feels that he is not as good as the others. This is mostly in most areas of one’s life.

The child tends to shy away from taking up tasks and feels other people can always perform better. This is where a child has very low self confidence. In case he is given a responsibility, the child fears that he may perform dismally. When this spills over to adulthood, the person tends to be very shy and fears taking up even simplest responsibilities. Sometimes the adult may view himself as not being worthy of having close relationships with other people. This affects one’s social life altogether. (Chalk, pg 19)


Emotional abuse more often than not results in a situation where a child has habitual lying. This behavior may develop as a child tries to defend himself or seek for acceptance. This makes the child give false information so as to appeal to other people. There is always the fear that if he told the truth, he might be rejected. Slowly by slowly, this becomes a habit and can also be long-term if the situation of emotional abuse takes a long time. (Dubowitz, pg 27)


Emotional abuse in children is mostly known to have diverse effects in children. This includes stealing. They tend to take things that do not belong to them without asking for permission to do so. The psychological problems associated with emotional abuse can push a child to the habit of taking other people’s property without permission. This habit can easily continue throughout a child’s life if not corrected early. This results in adults who can be described as hard-core criminals in the society. (Dubowitz, pg 27)


Many researchers have analysed the reason as to why some people opt to be prostitutes and child abuse is one of the factors that have been sited. This highly relates to emotional abuse of children. Most prostitutes concur that the emotional abuse from parents or caregivers in their childhood age played a great role in their becoming prostitutes.

Emotional abuse makes someone feel worthless, useless and good for nothing. They feel they don’t deserve to have meaningful relationships and end up in prostitution. This is very common among emotionally abused girls who may start prostitution even in their adolescent stage. (Michelle, pg 112)

Physical effects

Eating disorders

Emotional abuse is usually known to result in eating disorders among children. This highly emanates from depression since emotionally abused children go through depression. This results in a situation where the emotionally abused child overeats or has no appetite.

Sometimes when they worry about their life and ponder over the reasons as to why they are emotionally abused, their digestive system becomes highly activated hence end up eating too much. Some of them may shun away from food due to the fear of being ridiculed by parents or caregivers. They therefore, may lose appetite completely. These effects easily go away when the emotional abuse is stopped and the child shown care, love and assurance. (Crosson, pg 43)

Self harm

Some children who are emotionally abused tend to harm themselves. In this case, they channel their feelings of anger to themselves. This leads to a situation where the emotionally abused child inflicts physical harm on his body. This includes cutting, burning or biting his body.

It is mostly explained as a situation where the child fails to release his anger. In this case, the child is not able to speak out to the abuser and instead channels his anger towards himself. This explains why majority of emotionally abused children has wounds on their bodies. It is usually not easy for the children to divulge the cause of inflicting physical harm or worse still they may not even understand why they carry out the harm. (Crosson, pg 43)

Substance abuse

The twenty-first century is highly characterized by people who are substance abusers. Research shows that there are many people in the society today who are abusing alcohol and other drugs. This includes drugs such as marijuana and cocaine. Analysis of people who are substance abusers shows that most of them went through emotional abuse in their childhood years. As earlier on illustrated, emotionally abused children may feel angry towards other people as compared to un-abused children. Sometimes the anger is usually concealed.

Emotional imbalance is mostly known to push them towards substance abuse. This behavior is very common from adolescence stage and can continue until the adulthood years. Substance abuse is a vice that is quite difficult for involved people to quit. Substance abusers who went through emotional abuse may require counseling in order to quit the practice. (Dubowitz, pg 27)

Speech problems

Children who are emotionally abused also tend to develop speech problems. This is very common when emotional abuse starts at a very early stage in a child’s life. Children who are emotionally abused are likely to develop stammering. Sometimes as an emotionally abused child goes through stress, he may have delayed speech. Baby talk and slurred speech are also some of the effects of emotional abuse in children.

These speech problems sometimes may fade away as the child gets into adulthood. In some cases, stammering problems may continue throughout a person’s life. Some emotionally abused children can develop selective mutism. Further analysis shows that the speech disorders mentioned above become worse as the child goes through frustration and stress. (Glaser, pg 704)

Bed wetting

This is also one of the commonest physical effects of emotional abuse in children. It is essential to note that apart from bed wetting, emotionally abused children tend to have bladder problems. Some of children who go through emotional abuse may wet even when standing or sitting. They may totally lose control of their bladder.

Further analysis shows that secondary bedwetting is the one highly related to emotional abuse as compared to primary bedwetting. Where secondary bedwetting is where the child is sometimes dry and primary is where the child is always wet during sleeping hours. Bedwetting problems are easily notable among bigger children who are usually expected to be in total control of their bladder. (Raymond, pg 45)

Suicidal attempts

Emotionally abused children tend to have suicidal thoughts. They feel unloved and uncared for. They may not see the reason to continue living and hence attempt suicide. It is highly evident at the adolescent stages where emotions easily go overboard. (Glaser, pg 704)


Children who go through emotional abuse tend to develop mistrust in their lives. They just don’t trust anyone even close family members. They totally don’t trust strangers, and this makes it hard for them to have meaningful relationships. The mistrust makes emotionally abused children isolate themselves and shun away from interacting with other children. Such children can be found sitting all alone, reserved while their peers are playing. (Crosson, pg 43)

Emotional effects

Failure to control emotions

Child emotional abuse has myriad adverse effects that may be long-term or short term. Inability to control one’s emotions is one of the long- term effects of emotional abuse in children. This is usually characterised by children having temper tantrums.

Children below the age of five who are emotionally abused may not easily control their emotions and hence cry a lot, shout or scream when angered. This effect can easily carry on in the affected person’s adult life. Such people become quite quarrelsome and usually very irritable whenever slightly provoked. They tend to shout and quarrel for long periods of time. (Glaser, pg 704)

Questioning of religion

Emotional abuse among children results in a situation where affected people question the existence of God. This also includes the questioning of one’s religious faith. This usually starts at a very early age. Children start wondering is God exists why He allows them to undergo emotional abuse or problems.

They tend feel empty and think that God is very unloving. They question His existence and His love. If these beliefs are not dealt with at an early age, the affected children may totally lose trust in religious believes hence become atheists in their adulthood. (Chalk, pg 19)

Advice to parents

It is recommended that parents, caregivers or guardian be very patient with their children. Parents are advised to choose their words wisely to avoid hurting their children. They need to avoid shouting or screaming at their children because this creates more problems in the long run. Parents need to know that children are important, they have feelings and need to be listened to no matter how mediocre their views may be. They need to stop verbally abusing their children with the perception of correcting them.

Parents who have communication problems with their children can go for training on how to handle unruly children and how to communicate effectively. Parents who have problems communicating with their children should learn to show their love to the children and reassure the children of their love. Communication is essential in shaping the future of children and therefore, utmost care should be taken to avoid hurting the child’s feelings. (Raymond, pg 45)


In conclusion, child abuse has become quite prevalent in the twenty-first century. It involves actions that lead to emotional, physical or sexual harm on children. The abusers in most cases are mostly parents, guardians or caregivers. There various types of child abuse common in the society today. They include neglect, physical, sexual and emotional abuse. Research shows that emotional abuse in most cases does not occur singly but where the other forms of abuse are present.

It entails verbal assault, terrorizing, ignoring and rejection among others. Emotional child abuse affects children adversely though in a way that is not easily noticed at first sight. Some of the effects of emotional child abuse include aggression, lying, bed wetting, low self esteem, stealing, mistrust, failure to control emotions and suicide attempts among others. Parents need to love their children, listen and choose their words wisely to avoiding hurting their children.

Works Cited

Chalk, Gibbons: The multiple dimensions of child abuse and neglect; New insights into an old problem, Washington, DC: Child Trends publishers; 2002, pg 19

Crosson, Tower: Understanding Child Abuse and Neglect; Boston, MA: Pearson Education press; 2008, pg 43

Dubowitz, Howard: Handbook for child protection practice; Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc 2000; pg. 27

Epstein, Michelle: Memories of childhood sexual abuse: A survey of young adults; Child Abuse & Neglect, 22(12), 2001; pg, 273

Glaser, Danya: Emotional abuse and neglect-psychological maltreatment; A conceptual Framework; Child Abuse & Neglect, 2002; 26, 704

Michelle, McCauley: Child abuse: a global view – Westport, Conn; Greenwood Press 200; pg 112

Raymond Starr: The Effects of child abuse and neglect: issues and research New York, NY: Guilford Press, 1991; Pg 45

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