Emotional or psychological child abuse is a pattern of behavior that can damage the self-esteem and self-worth of children, affect adult relationships, influence children’s health, and impair a child's emotional development. The abuse is often perpetrated by parents, family members, or caregivers and may include constant criticism, threats, or rejection, as well as withholding love, support, or guidance. On this page, discover resources that describe the characteristics of people who engage in the emotional or psychological abuse of children and youth.
Child Emotional and Psychological Abuse
Explains emotional and psychological abuse and what parents can do if they think they are being abusive.
Emotional Child Abuse
American Society for the Positive Care of Children
Discusses emotional and verbal abuse of children and offers a list of behavioral indicators parents may display. The webpage also reviews emotional depravation.
Psychological Maltreatment (PDF - 716 KB)
Hibbard, Barlow, MacMillan, Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect, & American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Child Maltreatment and Violence Committee (2012)
Explores the psychological or emotional maltreatment of children and discusses co-occurring risk factors for such abuse, including parental psychiatric illness (e.g., depression, substance use) and exposure to intimate partner violence.
Warning Signs of Emotional Child Abuse
Describes how to identify cases of child emotional abuse. It also provides signs of a perpetrator of emotional abuse, including belittling the child in public, admitting to disliking or hating a child, applying severe punishments, having unrealistic expectations, and being emotionally distant or indifferent.