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Indicators of Emotional Abuse

There may be physical indicators that a child is being emotionally abused. Some examples of this are:

  • Bed-wetting or bed soiling that has no medical cause
  • Frequent psychosomatic complaints (eg. Headaches, nausea, abdominal pains)
  • Prolonged vomiting or diarrhoea
  • Has not attained significant developmental milestones
  • Dressed differently from other children in the family
  • Has deprived physical living conditions compared with other children in the family

There may also be indicators in a child’s behaviour that could indicate emotional abuse. Some examples of this are:

  • Suffers from severe developmental gaps
  • Severe symptoms of depression, anxiety, withdrawal or aggression
  • Severe symptoms of self destructive behaviour – self harming, suicide attempts, engaging in drug or alcohol abuse
  • Overly compliant; too well-mannered; too neat and clean
  • Displays attention seeking behaviours or displays extreme inhibition in play
  • When at play, behaviour may model or copy negative behaviour and language used at home

There may be indicators in adult behaviour that could indicate emotional abuse. Some examples of this are:

  • Constantly calls the child names, labels the child or publicly humiliates the child
  • Continually threatens the child with physical harm or forces the child to witness physical harm inflicted on a loved one
  • Has unrealistic expectations of the child
  • Involves the child in “adult issues”, such as separation or access issues
  • Keeps the child at home in a role of subservient or surrogate parent

More details and examples of indicators of emotional abuse are available in the book 'How Can I Tell?'.  You can view 'How Can I Tell?' online or you can order copies of 'How Can I Tell?' through our shop.