A pair of recent studies asserts that psychological abuse may be as harmful as other forms of child maltreatment, including physical and sexual abuse.
Although researchers describe emotional abuse of children as widely prevalent, it has not always been seen as serious or as damaging as other forms of maltreatment. But as researchers link psychological abuse to mental health-related issues later in life, these findings raise questions about the implications for screening, treating and preventing childhood trauma.
A new study released last week in JAMA Psychiatry suggests that emotional abuse is just as damaging as violent abuse when it comes to mental and behavioral health. Children who have experienced psychological abuse exhibit trauma-related health issues at the same rate as their peers who have suffered physical or sexual abuse.
In a paper titled “Assessment of the Harmful Psychiatric and Behavioral Effects of Different Forms of Child Maltreatment,” the authors examined nearly 2,300 children ages 5 to 13 who attended a summer camp for low-income children in New York from 1986 to 2012. About half had a documented history of some form of maltreatment, including physical, sexual and emotional abuse. The authors described emotional abuse as including behaviors such as ridicule, intimidation, rejection and humiliation.