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Emotional and Psychological Abuse: Problems of Definition

NCJ Number
Child Abuse and Neglect Volume: 19 Issue: 4 Dated: (April 1995) Pages: 449-461
K P O'Hagan
Date Published
13 pages
This paper explores the origins of the tendency in child protection literature to regard as synonymous emotional abuse and psychological abuse. The author provides an alternative view, that the terms are not synonymous and there should be different definitions for each.
Emotional abuse and psychological abuse are not the same, but they are not entirely separate experiences; it is highly probable that the perpetrator who is abusing a child in one manner will to some extent also be abusing the child in the other. The author defines psychological abuse in terms of what it is and what it does: the sustained, repetitive, inappropriate behavior which damages or substantially reduces the creative and developmental potential of crucially important mental faculties and mental processes of a child, including intelligence, memory, recognition, perception, attention, imagination, and moral development. Emotional abuse impairs the emotional life and impedes emotional development; psychological abuse impairs the mental life and impedes mental development. The definitions in this paper help to stress that it is not just parents or other caregivers who emotionally and psychologically abuse children: wars, famines, slavery, civil strife, and professional childcare workers are also sources of abuse. References