PTSD Causes Signs of Emotional Abuse From Parents By Sanjana Gupta Sanjana Gupta Sanjana is a health writer and editor. Her work spans various health-related topics, including mental health, fitness, nutrition, and wellness. Learn about our editorial process Updated on August 08, 2022 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by Yolanda Renteria, LPC Medically reviewed by Yolanda Renteria, LPC Yolanda Renteria, LPC, is a licensed therapist, somatic practitioner, national certified counselor, adjunct faculty professor, speaker specializing in the treatment of trauma and intergenerational trauma. Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Juanmonino / Getty Images Table of Contents View All Table of Contents What Is Emotional Abuse by Parents? Types of Emotional Abuse Signs Impact What Is Emotional Abuse by Parents? Emotional Abuse Emotional abuse, also known as psychological abuse, is a pattern of behavior perpetuated by a parent that causes a child to experience emotional distress, harms their sense of self-worth, and affects their emotional development. It can include rejection, constant criticism, threats, or emotional neglect. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), child abuse and neglect are entirely too common in the United States, with 1 in 7 children being a victim. While any child can be a victim of emotional abuse, the CDC notes that children living in poverty are at greater risk of abuse. While emotional abuse doesn’t leave scrapes or bruises, it can leave severe emotional scars and be just as damaging to a child as physical or sexual abuse. However, because it doesn’t leave physical marks, it can be harder to recognize and more difficult to prove, so people and law enforcement authorities may be less likely to intervene and help the child. Nonetheless, it’s important to note that child abuse by parents or legal guardians of children below the legal of 18 is a crime, punishable under the Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act. This article discusses the types, signs, and impacts of emotional abuse by parents. If you are a victim of child abuse or know someone who might be, call or text the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-422-4453 to speak with a professional crisis counselor. For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database. Types of Emotional Abuse by Parents These are some of the types of emotional abuse children may experience from their parents: Constantly criticizing the child Blaming the child for adult problems Rejecting the child repeatedly Dismissing the child’s feelings Deliberately causing the child emotional pain Ridiculing the child or mocking them Humiliating or publicly shaming the child Talking down to the child Calling the child names Getting angry at the child often Yelling or swearing at the child Threatening to abandon the child Threatening to harm the child or their family members, friends, or pets Intimidating or scaring the child Coercing or manipulating the child Gaslighting the child Frequently harassing or picking on the child Ignoring the child or using silence to control their behavior Withholding love, support, and guidance Neglecting to care for the child and their needs Allowing the child to witness domestic violence and abuse Emotional abuse can be perpetuated in person or online, through text messages, emails, social media, and other digital apps or platforms. Signs of Emotional Abuse These are some common signs that a child might be experiencing abuse: Sudden changes in behavior or academic performance Watchful demeanor, as though waiting for something bad to happen Nervousness around certain people A tendency to avoid being around certain people Withdrawn or unresponsive demeanor Overly passive or compliant behavior Early arrival and late departure from school or other activities Reluctance to go home Lack of adult supervision Emotional distress or agitation Aggression or rage These are some of the signs of emotionally abusive parents: Rarely touching the child or showing affection Stating that they do not like the child Describing the child as a burden Showing little concern for the child and refusing others’ help Demanding academic results and sporting performances the child cannot achieve Berating the child in front of their friends, teachers, or neighbors Denying that there are any problems at home or at school Telling teachers and other caregivers to discipline the child harshly if they misbehave What Is a Toxic Mother? Impact of Emotional Abuse By Parents Emotional abuse can make a child feel unwanted, unloved, worthless, and flawed, according to a 2014 study. Children who grow up with abusive parents may not be able to recognize the abuse, since that’s all they know. They may blame themselves for their parents’ actions and grow up believing that they are not worthy of love or respect. Emotional abuse can be deeply damaging to children and have lifelong consequences that persist well after the abuse stops. These are some of the negative effects a child may experience as a result of emotional abuse: Cognitive difficulties, such as difficulty paying attention, learning, and remembering Academic issues, such as lower attendance in school, poor academic performance, and disciplinary issues Mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and low self-esteem Emotional difficulties, including difficulty interpreting, communicating, processing, and regulating emotions Substance use, such as doing alcohol, nicotine, or drugs at an early age Behavioral issues, such as acting out, behaving bizarrely, or trying hard to please others Changes in weight and appetite, which could result in eating disorders, nutrition deficiencies, and malnourishment Sleep issues, such as insomnia or nightmares Physical aches and pains, that have no other discernible cause and don’t seem to get better with treatment Career issues, as a result of lower educational attainment, limited employment opportunities, and an increased risk of delinquency Relationship issues, due to mostly unhealthy dynamics being modeled Children who have been emotionally abused are more likely to be abusive to others or to seek out people who are abusive, because this is the relationship dynamic they grew up with. Therefore, they may become victims or perpetrators of abuse in the future. This is known as the intergenerational cycle of violence. How Emotional Abuse in Childhood Changes the Brain A Word From Verywell Emotional abuse can be difficult and traumatic for children to experience, leaving behind deep emotional wounds and severe negative consequences. Therefore, it’s important to recognize the signs and get help for children who might be at risk. How to Heal From Trauma 10 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services: Children’s Bureau. What is child abuse and neglect? Recognizing the signs and symptoms Nemours Foundation. Abuse. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Preventing child abuse and neglect. National Library of Medicine. Child neglect and emotional abuse. Medline Plus. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services: Children’s Bureau. Definitions of child abuse and neglect. Washington State Department of Social and Health Services. Types and signs of abuse. Iram Rizvi SF, Najam N. Parental psychological abuse toward children and mental health problems in adolescence. Pak J Med Sci. 2014;30(2):256-260. Young JC, Widom CS. Long-term effects of child abuse and neglect on emotion processing in adulthood. Child Abuse Negl. 2014;38(8):1369-1381. doi:10.1016/j.chiabu.2014.03.008 Li S, Zhao F, Yu G. Childhood maltreatment and intimate partner violence victimization: A meta-analysis. Child Abuse Negl. 2019;88:212-224. doi:10.1016/j.chiabu.2018.11.012 Greene CA, Haisley L, Wallace C, Ford JD. Intergenerational effects of childhood maltreatment: A systematic review of the parenting practices of adult survivors of childhood abuse, neglect, and violence. Clin Psychol Rev. 2020;80:101891. doi:10.1016/j.cpr.2020.101891 By Sanjana Gupta Sanjana is a health writer and editor. Her work spans various health-related topics, including mental health, fitness, nutrition, and wellness. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Speak to a Therapist for PTSD Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.