For kids, psychological abuse may leave the deepest scars

For kids, psychological abuse may leave the deepest scars

(Reuters Health) – Psychological cruelty to children from parents or caregivers can cause as much – or even more – emotional damage than physical and sexual abuse, according to a new U.S. study.

The diagnosis is being overlooked and undertreated compared to physical forms of abuse, researchers say.

“When you look at symptom severity, there was no difference between the three forms of maltreatment,” said Joseph Spinazzola, lead author of the study.

Psychological trauma is different from “dysfunctional parenting,” where moms or dads periodically lose their tempers.

“It’s sort of living in this situation where they’re not receiving any kind of love or warmth and instead they’re receiving either hostility, threats or impossible demands, almost as if they are an enemy or monster, a pathetic unlovable creature . . . .,” said Spinazzola, executive director of The Trauma Center at Justice Resource Institute in Brookline, Massachusetts.

The study used the National Child Traumatic Stress Network Core Data set to analyze the cases of 5,616 youth with histories of psychological, physical or sexual abuse.

The children were ages 2 to 10 at the start of the data collection, which took place from 2004 to 2010. Forty-two percent were boys and 62 percent had a history of psychological abuse.

The children and their parents or caregivers were interviewed by clinicians and also answered questions about behavioral issues and trauma on questionnaires.

All three groups of children had scores in the same general range for so-called “internalizing problems,” like social withdrawal, sadness, loneliness, difficulty concentrating or sleeping, and symptoms like headaches or stomachaches.

But children who had been psychologically abused were more likely to have negative outcomes over the long-term than victims of physical or sexual abuse.

They were 92 percent more likely to have trouble with substance abuse, 78 percent more likely to be depressed, 80 percent more likely to experience separation anxiety disorder and 92 percent more likely to be anxious, according to a paper scheduled for an upcoming issue of the journal Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy.

Compared to children who had been sexually abused, the psychological abuse group was also
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For kids, psychological abuse may leave the deepest scars – Reuters

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