Emotional Abuse

Emotional Abuse—California Penal Code Section 11166&b;

Emotional abuse is defined as when a person causes or permits a child to suffer unjustifiable or significant mental suffering. 

Emotional Abuse—Federal Guidelines

  • Acts or omissions by parents or caretakers that have caused, or could cause, serious behavioral, cognitive, emotional or mental disorders. 
  • Some acts, do not leave evident harm to the child but warrant reporting, such as extreme or bizarre forms of punishment, such as locking a child in a closet. 
  • Emotional abuse is almost always present when other forms of abuse are identified 

Emotional Abuse

  • Belittling 
  • Blaming 
  • Sarcasm 
  • Rejection 
  • Corruption 
  • Screaming 
  • Humiliation 
  • Threatening 
  • Name calling 
  • Unpredictable responses 
  • Child exposed to domestic violence 
  • Isolation of the child from social contacts 
  • Deliberate withholding of love and affection 
  • Child placed in restraints, caged or severe confinement 

Indicators of Emotional Abuse in the Child

  • Withdrawn, seeks isolation or is unresponsive 
  • Overly rigid or passive 
  • Repetitive, rhythmic movements 
  • Sleep, eating or speech disorders 
  • Learning problems 
  • Destructive to self or others 
  • Poor self-image and esteem - may unwittingly say “I’m bad…my daddy tells me so.” 
  • Hungers for attention and affection 
  • Failure to Thrive Syndrome 

Indicators of Emotional Abuse in the Parent

  • Has unrealistic expectations of the child - developmentally, educationally or emotionally 
  • Enforces unusual penalties or vaguely sinister punishment - it is one thing to place a child in time-out in their room for five minutes, and another to place a child in time-out in a locked closet for five minutes 
  • Uses child to satisfy their own ego needs 
  • Describes the child as bad, different, worthless or evil  
  • Refers to the child as “It” 
  • Uses child as a battleground for problems