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Emotional abuse is the willful infliction of mental or emotional anguish by threat, humiliation, or other verbal or non-verbal conduct. Persistent emotional ill-treatment of a child such as to cause severe and persistent adverse effects on his/her emotional development.

• Emotional abuse causes a child to feel worthless, unloved or inadequate
• The child feels that they are valued only to meet the needs of another person
• Having inappropriate expectations for a child’s age or development
• Children feel frightened or in danger
• Exploring or corrupting children

Some levels of emotional abuse are involved in all types of ill-treatment of a child, though it may occur alone. Underlying emotional abuse may be as important, if not more so, than other more visible forms of abuse in terms of its impact on the child. Domestic violence, adult mental health problems and parental substance misuse may be featured in families where children are exposed to such abuse.

Children may present with the following symptoms where they are victims of emotional abuse;

• Over-reacting to mistakes
• The development of sudden speech disorders
• Neurotic behaviour – i.e. rocking, hair-twisting, thumb sucking
• Self-mutilation
• Extremes of passivity or aggression.