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Psycological Abuse Harms Children: Study

Update Date: Jul 30, 2012 08:08 AM EDT
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A latest research warns parents that psychological abuse could be as damaging to a child's physical and mental health as physical abuse like slapping or punching.

According to experts from American academy of pediatrics, even though its difficult to pinpoint or produce a figure, psychological abuse may be the most common type of child abuse.

Psychological abuse includes the acts of belittling, denigrating, terrorizing, exploiting, emotional unresponsiveness, or corrupting a child to the point a child's well-being is at risk, said Dr. Harriet MacMillan, a professor in the departments of psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences and pediatrics of McMaster University's Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine and the Offord Centre for Child Studies, in the press release. Dr MacMillan is one of the three authors of the study.

"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," she said.

She said, examples of psychological abuse could include a mother leaving an infant in the crib all day. However, parents raising their voice on a child to make him or her do something right, would not count as a psychological abuse, MacMillan said.

"But, yelling at a child every day and giving the message that the child is a terrible person, and that the parent regrets bringing the child into this world, is an example of a potentially very harmful form of interaction."

Although psychological abuse has been recognized by scientific literature more than 25 years ago, it has been under reported said, MacMillan. The effects of it on a child "can be as harmful as other types of maltreatment."

"The effects of psychological maltreatment during the first three years of life can be particularly profound."

The report says that psychological abuse on children is most common in families which are undergoing lot of difficulties and multiple stresses. For example, a family that has a lot of conflicts within itself, has one or both parents in the habit of substance abuse etc.

Also, reportedly, the numbers of psychological cases are highly under reported and thus, pediatricians should take care and be alert of any such event even if there is a little evidence of the same.

The study suggests that pediatricians, psychiatrists and child protective services should work together in order help children at risk.

The study appears in the August issue of the journal Pediatrics and the funding of the study was done by the Family Violence Prevention Unit of the Public Health Agency of Canada.

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