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Emotional and Psychological Abuse on Children

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Emotional and psychological abuse is the harm inflicted upon children by actions and behaviors. There are many difficulties in understanding and articulating emotional and psychological abuse. Professionals realized that this abuse is widespread. The fundamental difficulty is that an adequate definition of these terms doesn't yet exist. The lack of 'awareness' and intentionality on the part of carers are important contributory factors in the reluctance to knowledge that children are being emotionally and psychologically abused. The failure to respond to such abuse largely stems from a perception that it does not constitute a crisis, unlike physical and sexual abuse. The Children Act 1989 will gradually compelled all professionals involved in child protection to gain greater understanding of emotional and psychological abuse.

Observation of emotional life of newborn and infant, and the emotional interactions between them and the principal caregiver, clearly indicate that emotional development and psychological development are not synonymous with each other. Emotional development, as the child grows older, can be influenced by psychological development. It is the sustained, inappropriate emotional responses of the care givers to the child's emotional expressions which constitute emotional abuse. Psychological development includes cognition, intelligence, perception, memory, attention, moral sense and so on. It refers to the state of health and development of crucial mental processes. Psychological abuse is any behavior which damages or reduces the creative and developmental potential of any of these processes. It undermines the child's attempts to understand the world, it may confuse and frighten, and lead to a pervasive lack of confidence adversely affecting education, general welfare and socialization.

It is not only parents who abuse children emotionally and psychologically. It is neither a recent phenomena nor it is confined to any geographical area. The Industrial Revolution caused emotional and psychological abuse on a massive scale. In the early part of 18th and 19th century, in UK and the USA, the middle classes unwittingly perpetrated emotional and psychological abuses against theii own children. 'Bullying' by peers is another form of pervasive emotional and psychological abuse which is having profound adverse consequences on the victoms' overall development and educational attainment. Disabled children are especially vulnerable to all forms of abuse by care givers, professionals and institutions. Their physical and mental handicap may limit their emotional and psychological development.

The age of the child is crucial variable in determining the nature and extent of damage inflicted by particular actions. One cannot label particular actions as either emotionally or psychologically abusive. It is the emotional and psychological impact of the action which determines whether it



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