The Lasting Impact of Emotional Abuse By Parents

In the last two decades, research and studies into the long-term impact of trauma and abuse have become part of the way that courts consider parenting time or even child custody cases. While this is a very positive step in moving forward, it still creates challenges in pinpointing if emotional abuse is occurring.

Physical abuse is also devastating for all involved. Typically, in cases of physical abuse or child abuse, there is a way to document the horrific events to which the children are being subjected. This may be in bruises, cuts, marks or injuries to children that are not made by typical accidents and clumsy kids.

Of course, it is very common for a person who is emotionally abusive to not just restrict their use of the abusive behavior to the kids. Often, they use the same behavior on their spouse and other family members. Just like physical abuse, the abused person often attempts to protect themselves from future abuse by minimizing the issue and not reporting the behavior to authorities.

What is Emotional Abuse?

Parents who use emotionally abusive language and behaviors are very aware that these behaviors are not accepted in the community or by some members of their extended families. They often reserve this type of behavior in the home, which means that finding evidence of the emotional abuse can be a challenge.

Some types of behavior that is used by parents that are emotionally abusive include:

  • Using a load voice, yelling or screaming at the child or children over even the most minor issues
  • Swearing and cursing at the children
  • Creating hurtful or embarrassing nicknames for the children and using them to cause emotional pain
  • Making fun of the child for his or her physical appearance or some behavior or trait
  • Ignoring or isolating the child for control and intimidation
  • Intentionally creating a sense of fear in the child, often with regards to never seeing the other parent
  • Telling a child he or she is not loved or wanted by the other parent
  • Making threats to the child

Constant exposure to emotional abuse can result in long-term changes in the brain that can lead to the development of PTSD and anxiety. These are both conditions that can be treated, but if not addressed, they continue on and can become debilitating as that moves into adulthood.

Any concerns about emotional or physical abuse in the family should be discussed with your divorce attorney. There are legal options to protect your child and family from this type of abuse.