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 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 Abuse
There 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.
Other aspects of emotional abuse include routinely blaming a child, criticising a child, humiliating a child and/or withholding all types of affection from a child.
Emotional Abuse and Speech Disorders
Emotional 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 Disorders
Childline (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.
I stopped talking to my dad in my normal voice when I was in grade 1 after he hit me because I couldn’t understand my homework nhe was emotionally abusing me and I would talk in a low baby voice or not at all, my mom was mentally gone and doing drugs when I lived with her so I ended up having to live with dad in grade 8. I always was home sick and I sucked my fingers for comfort since my dad n mom would let me cry with no comfort due to my mom having childhood trauma n my dad being a narcissist. The funny thing is that even tho my dad was stable n always had a roof over his head and my mom was always evicted, on drugs and with toxic men I still rather live with her n neglect then my dad cuz he was neglectful and abusive. So it was either live with my mom and get neglected because of drugs and mental health or go stay with my dad who is neglectful and abusive. He used to always feed his girlfriends before me in the morning, and I would be starving. I was so skinny and people would tell me to eat, but I was starved, and always anxious around him to even eat. I would never go to the fridge and feed myself or ask for food until he decided it was time to feed me. Now I’m 23 and I live with my mom. I haven’t talk to my dad in two years because I cut him off. At night I have a hard time sleeping because I get flashbacks of all the bad memories but now I’m looking into therapy so I can heal and braces from sucking my fingers for 20yrs lol embarrassing but I hope someone can relate to my story because I never met or heard anything about a child not being able to talk to their dad and their normal voice.
Lele - 22-Feb-24 @ 7:02 PM
@Overcomer - I hope you managed to sort out all your psychological issues too. Well done Miss H. We all need teachers like her and well done you for getting past this and clinging on to hope. Best of wishes for you and your future.
SylvieBH - 3-Apr-18 @ 2:05 PM
I didn’t know what my father and one of my brothers was doing to me was abuse until I was in 5th grade. I knew it mad me uncomfortable, embarrassed, confused, and scared, but it was my “normal” until I overcame stuttering and spoke to my sister about things that were happening to both of us.
I stuttered from Kindergarten to 5th grade; making progress with a speech pathologist who was assigned to me since the discovery of my speech problem by my Kindergarten teacher. My family didn’t know I stuttered. As #6 of 8 children, living on a secluded farm, it just seemed to family that I was shy and mumbled a lot. I always had older siblings to speak for me and speech was not required to get the basic essentials.
I didn’t know until 3rd grade that I was smart. My 3rd grade teacher went up to bat for me when my grades in reading were enough to fail me. I remember the joy and new beginning of hope I felt when I heard Miss Hendershot repeatedly insist that I was intelligent, from her careful observations of me during testing and class time. She never got to hear me outgrow stuttering but I credit it to her.
Overcomer - 2-Apr-18 @ 6:10 PM
@Wannabehappy - I'm not surprised this hasn't left you - especially if you have not dealt with these issues. Counselling is designed to help and it will help you forgive your parents, that's what it is designed to do. You don't have to do or say anything you don't want to, but it might be good to at least give it a try. I hope you manage to work your way through these issues. Going to church is all about embracing forgiveness - I'm not religious and if you're not, you don't have to buy into it. But it may help you work through your issues through listening rather than having to speak yourself....Just a thought.
ElizabethR - 29-Mar-18 @ 2:05 PM
As baby my mother abonden me and I was raise by my grandma and dad. Don’t know why but I remember that dad used to make fun of me in front of everybody somehow he enjoys putting me down upto now. I don’t remember how I developed to have speech problem but I had as I can remember at the age of 5 I remember I couldn’t say simple sentence with being asked several times. My speech problems caused my dad to beat me. Even though I moved out of the family house when I was 18 I still suffer many things. I will be okay several months than I will have breakdowns.
As I got older is getting harder to deal with it and I am not ready to go to counselling. What can I do to forget my childhood memories and forgive my parents even though they never eknowledge that they have done me wrong?
Wannabehappy - 29-Mar-18 @ 12:41 AM
@Tryingtorecover - you must speak to your GP, as this is the only person who can give you a referral. Best of luck - it can be resolved with a bit of hard work.