Child Abuse and Speech Disorders
Child abuse can take many forms including physical abuse, sexual abuse and emotional abuse. While physical abuse and sexual abuse usually leave marks on a child’s body, emotional abuse is more insidious. Sometimes emotional abuse is described as an “invisible” abuse, one that must be overheard to know that it is really happening. Or is it? A variety of behavioural changes in a child can point towards emotional abuse, including the development of difficulties or disorders in a child’s speech.
Emotional AbuseEmotional abuse, sometimes also called psychological abuse, is estimated to make up approximately 10% of child abuse cases worldwide. Though this makes emotional abuse one of the most common forms of child abuse, it remains one of the least understood. A common definition of emotional abuse is that it is the systemic “tearing down” of another individual, though the means may be many. This “tearing down” is actually an injury to the child’s psyche, leaving him or her feeling worthless and either undeserving or incapable of being loved. Slow development and low self-esteem are often a result.
Types of Emotional AbuseThere are five main types of emotional child abuse:
- Rejecting occurs when a parent or other adult rejects the child by showing and/or telling him or her that (s)he is unloved and unwanted.
- Ignoring occurs when a parent or other adult refuses to acknowledge the child’s presence.
- Terrorising occurs when a parent or other adult picks out a child to punish for even minor or completely made-up infractions, including by telling the child that (s)he may die or be abandoned.
- Isolating occurs when a parent or other adult refuses to allow a child to socialise with peers, or even the rest of the family.
- Corrupting occurs when a parent or other adult allows (or forces) a child to engage in inappropriate behaviours such as drinking alcohol, using drugs, becoming involved in crime or watching sexual acts either in pornographic material or real life.
Emotional Abuse and Speech DisordersEmotional abuse produces an array of effects, often including a number of speech disorders. Stuttering or stammering, slurred speech, delayed speech, baby talk and aspects of selective mutism may all result from emotional abuse. These disorders are usually made worse by the stress, frustration and fear induced by emotional abuse. Usually speech disorders will not be the only behavioural indicator of emotional abuse, however, and may be accompanied by the development of sleep disorders, eating disorders, bed wetting and/or self-harming.
Further Information on Emotional Abuse and Speech DisordersChildline (www.childline.org.uk) and the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (www.nspcc.org.uk) are both organisations dedicated to supporting victims of child abuse. These organisations will be able to provide further information on emotional abuse and the effects of emotional abuse inflicted on children.
A variety of organisations also exist to provide further information on speech disorders, including The British Stammering Association (www.stammering.org) and Talking Point (www.talkingpoint.org.uk). Medical professional, speech and language professionals and mental health professionals should all be able to provide further information on child abuse, emotional abuse and/or speech disorders as well.