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Psychological Abuse Common & Hard to Detect Among Children

More adults claim to have suffered psychological abuse as adolescents than any other type of abuse, a new report says.

By Jeremy Greenberg Aug 1, 2012 9:40PM

Photo: Donald Iain Smith/Getty ImagesBelittling, teasing, or neglecting children is just as devastating as any physical abuse, according to a clinical report published online in Pediatrics this week. The report states that as much as 9% of women and 4% of men (in the U.S. and Great Britain) report being psychologically abused in childhood. In U.S surveys alone, more adults claim to have suffered psychological abuse as adolescents than any other type of abuse, suggesting that psychological abuse might be the most common form of abuse suffered by children.

According to the report, the consequences can be quite severe:

“Psychological maltreatment has been linked with disorders of attachment, developmental and educational problems, socialization problems, disruptive behavior, and later psychopathology.”

The report serves to raise awareness, and hopefully allow pediatricians and other experts to identify and intervene when a child is being emotionally or psychologically tormented. However, identifying this type of abuse is a challenge.

Unlike physical or sexual trauma which can be defined by a single event, psychological abuse stems from a relationship. And what’s more, something that may appear as abuse may in fact just be a good parent having a bad day. All parents have occasionally said something in the stress of the moment they later regret. Losing your cool and yelling at your kid in a grocery store typically wouldn’t be considered psychological abuse. But if the mom tells that child that she doesn’t love her, or some other harsh and devastating remark, then it may fall into the psychological abuse category. The key is what effect it has on a child. Anything that makes a child feel worthless, unwanted, unloved, or in a constant state of fear is abuse, the report states.

Just like physical abuse, mental trauma can lead to cognitive disorders (i.e. understanding and applying knowledge), or other developmental issues. Please contact a medical professional if you think a child is being mistreated.

Read more about the issue here.

Photo: Donald Iain Smith/Getty Images

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