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Mental abuse as injurious as other forms of child abuse

Though the effects of terrorizing, belittling or
neglecting a child are more difficult to trace —
being subsequent to the nature of the relationship between
caregiver and child, rather than one specific event
— they can be every bit as traumatic as those of
other abuse, three pediatricians wrote this week in the
journal Pediatrics.

“We are talking about extremes and the likelihood of
harm, or risk of harm, resulting from the kinds of
behavior that make a child feel worthless, unloved or
unwanted,” Harriet MacMillan, one of the three
pediatrician authors, told reporters.

The survey indicated that 8 to 9 percent of women and 4
percent of men reported severe psychological abuse in

“A number of U.S. surveys have also found that more adults
claim they faced psychological maltreatment as kids than
claim they experienced any other form of abuse,” TIME reported. “This
suggests that psychological maltreatment may be the most
common form of abuse inflicted on kids.”

The authors of the study urged pediatricians to look for
signs of emotional maltreatment that can signal sexual or
physical abuse. Sometimes, the authors found, children
exposed to psychological abuse may “require a level of
protection that necessitates removal from the parental

Encouraging children to engage in illegal activities, such
as using illicit drugs, for example, can fall under the
category of “corrupting a child,” which can also be
defined as psychological abuse, CNN

Experts hope to help organize effective treatment and
prevention programs that spread awareness among child
caregivers about the dangers and long-term effects of
psychological abuse, the Huffington Post reported.

“Many are things that parents may, very appropriately, do
in isolated circumstances,” said Roberta Hibbard, director
of child protection programs at Indiana University’s
School of Medicine and one of the report’s authors.

“For example, it’s often appropriate to send children to
their room and put them in time-out,” she said. “But at
what point does three minutes become five minutes, and
five minutes becomes 10 hours?”

“A lot of attention is paid to sexual and physical abuse,”
said Alec Miller, chief of child and
adolescent psychology at the Montefiore Medical Center in
New York, who was not involved with the new report. “This
is another form of child maltreatment that is more
insidious, in some instances, and it doesn’t get the
treatment attention that is due.”

Lowry is a reporter intern for the Deseret News.