Although there may not be bruises or broken
bones, psychological maltreatment can scar children for a lifetime and result in
severe emotional distress, developmental problems and disruptive behavior. In an
updated clinical report from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP),
“Psychological Maltreatment,” in the August 2012 issue of Pediatrics (published online July 30), the AAP
describes how psychological maltreatment is one of the most common forms of
child abuse, but also one of the most difficult to identify and prevent.
Emotional or psychological abuse is a repeated pattern of behavior by a parent
or caregiver that can be verbal or nonverbal, active or passive, intentional or
unintentional, but is interpreted negatively by a child, and can result in
developmental, social, emotional and academic problems. This form of
mistreatment can occur in many types of families, but is more common in homes
with multiple stresses, including family conflict, mental health issues,
physical violence, depression or substance abuse. To date, not much is known
about ways to intervene with parents who psychologically abuse their children,
however it is hoped that health care providers can help to promote sensitive and
attuned parenting using a range of approaches, such as educational strategies.
If anyone suspects psychological or emotional abuse, they should contact child
protective services for additional assessment and
The American Academy of Pediatrics is
an organization of 60,000 primary care pediatricians, pediatric medical
subspecialists and pediatric surgical specialists dedicated to the
health, safety and well-being of infants, children, adolescents and
young adults. For more information, visit www.aap.org.