Early Childhood Intervention: Module Two – Special Needs & Conditions

Category — 2.3. Children who are Abused: Emotional Abuse

Children who are Emotionally/Psychologically Abused

Emotional or psychological abuse1 is often hidden and is hard for an outsider to detect. This means only the child can talk about this type of abuse. This is a very hard thing for a child to do because the nature of the abuse makes it difficult for the child to trust his or her own feelings. The child senses that the world is not a safe place to be, and their sense of self is a bit fragile.  Just like for children who experience other types of abuse, they have difficulty at school and learning or trying new activities. Their attention span tends to be short; they lack the confidence to try new or challenging things.

Boys and girls may differ in terms of the impact emotional or psychological abuse has on their development. For example, boys may be more physically aggressive, have temper tantrums more often, engage in fights with peers, show their frustration with destructive and impulsive behaviors, and may be either argumentative (see full Glossary) and loud or very silent and withdrawn. Girls may appear very withdrawn, passive, or may need approval for everything they do (approval seeking). Girls may also be extremely compliant, easily frustrated, overly dependent or stubborn, and may cling to adults or have physical complaints such as stomachaches or headaches.


Psychological abuse, also known as emotional abuse, refers to acts that harm a child’s sense of self in a way that causes or could cause behavioral, cognitive and emotional disorders. This includes making verbal threats and put-downs forcing a child into social isolation, intimidating, exploiting, terrorizing or routinely making unreasonable demands of a child.

Intervention Options

  • Protect the child and protect other children who may be involved;
  • Respect the rights of the person alleged to have committed the abuse; keep information confidential and seek help for the adult;
  • Cooperate with child protection agencies and possibly police.
  • Children who are emotionally abused can access programs in local child and youth mental health agencies.

To learn about the impact of emotional abuse in the middle childhood years, please visit the six to 12 part of this course.

1 Reference: Child Abuse Effects Blog at http://www.child-abuse-effects.com/types-of-emotional-abuse.html

February 14, 2011   No Comments