Psychological child abuse is the mental or emotional abuse of a child. With this type of abuse, the abuser does not hit or otherwise physically harm his child victim. Instead, he uses words, intimidation, manipulation, and the withholding of things the child needs or wants to abuse him. In fact, even such acts as withholding affection from a child and isolating him from those who love him can be considered child abuse. Unfortunately, psychological child abuse is often much harder to detect than abuse that is physical in nature, but many mental health experts agree that it is just as scarring.
When a child suffers psychological abuse, he won't have physical scars to show for it, but this doesn't mean that the abuse is not harming him. When a child experiences psychological abuse, he is harmed emotionally or mentally. In some cases, the abuse may even hurt his social development as well. Without physical evidence, a child is often at the mercy of his abuser for quite some time before someone notices and notifies authorities. In fact, many cases are never discovered, and some children spend their entire childhoods suffering from this type of abuse.
There are many types of psychological child abuse, including verbal abuse, such as belittling and name calling; intimidation; and isolation. Bullying or threatening as well as rejecting and shaming a child are often part of this type of abuse. Likewise, withholding affection can be abusive as well. Some abusers even ignore or refuse to communicate with a child as a way to abuse him. Additionally, this type of child abuse includes encouraging a child to participate in criminal activities, take drugs, or engage in acts that are considered self-destructive.
Since there are no physical signs to indicate psychological child abuse, concerned loved ones, mental health experts, social workers, and legal authorities look for other ways to identify victims. Some symptoms that may indicate such a problem include patterns of being too aggressive or abnormally passive. Children who seem too eager to please others or behave more like adults than children may suffer from psychological or other types of child abuse. Some victims of this type of abuse also behave as if they are much younger than they really are or seem too demanding. Additionally, some may seem withdrawn or suffer delays in their physical, mental, and emotional development — even suicide attempts can point to psychological child abuse.