EMOTIONAL ABUSE is probably the most complex form of abuse to define, recognise and identify. It is under-recognised and frequently viewed as an accompanying or subordinate feature of other forms of abuse. Fewer than 20 per cent of children are placed on child protection registers under the category of emotional abuse, although the emotional consequences of all forms of abuse are likely to be the most damaging.
The impact of continual emotional maltreatment is cumulative, serious and long term. Emotional abuse impairs the child's psychological and emotional development with a potentially life-long influence on any capacity to form successful relationships. In addition child victims often form poor relationships with their own children.
Emotional development in infancy and later childhood largely depends on 'good enough parenting', which determines the quality of the attachment. Emotional abuse describes a relationship between the parent and child that is characterised by harmful interactions, which impair a child's psychological and emotional health and development; no physical contact is required. The abusing adult is nearly always the primary carer and attachment figure for the child. Different forms of emotional abuse affect children differently according to age and shape the development of psychological function at the time of its occurrence. Often children who are maltreated experience emotional abuse from an early age, frequently as a precursor to other abuse. Working Together to Safeguard Children describes emotional abuse as having: