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- / Emotional Abuse
Failure to provide for the child's basic emotional needs such as to have a severe effect on the behaviour and development of the child.
Scottish Office Guidance 1998
This may include situations where as a result of persistent behaviour by the parent or care-giver, children are rejected, denigrated or scapegoated, engaged in play inappropriate to their stage of development or encouraged to engage in anti-social behaviour, put in a state of terror or extreme anxiety by the use of threats or practices designed to intimidate them, isolated from normal social experiences, preventing the child from forming friendships.
By its very nature, emotional abuse can be difficult to accurately measure and evidence. Attention must be paid to restorative change, e.g. when discussing such factors as weight gain when a child is looked after or accommodated.
Studies have revealed three tiers of concern in cases where emotional abuse has been identified.
Parental attributes, for example, mental ill health, domestic violence and substance misuse.
Forms of adult ill-treatment - this can include developmentally inappropriate interaction with the child, e.g. age inappropriate interaction/exposure/impositions, denigration and rejection, unresponsiveness.
Indicators of impairment of the child's development, for example, the child's emotional state, behaviour, developmental/educational attainment etc.
Due to the nature of emotional abuse, which tends to be identified via an accumulation of concerns, an interagency assessment will often be the most appropriate response. This would include:
- the nature of the significant harm to be established;
- parental risk factors to be identified;
- the nature of necessary changes in the family defined;
- specific interventions offered to reduce the ill-treatment and any potential risk factors;
- the family's capacity for change and level of co-operation assessed.
A response such as this must be time limited (e.g. 3 - 6 months) and must be re-assessed with outcomes and child's well being further evaluated. Equally, any period of assessment would depend on the parents' acknowledgement of concerns and willingness to work with professionals. Following this assessment the area manager may wish to consider convening a child protection conference.
Recognition of emotional abuse
The following indicators should be considered by workers when concerns regarding emotional abuse arise. In some situations the following will be applicable to an individual child within the family or to all children:
- parents' history;
- denial of opportunities for exploration, play and socialisation appropriate to their stage of development;
- sensory deprivation;
- isolation from normal social experiences, preventing the child from forming friendships;
- marked difference in material provision in relation to other siblings;
- unrealistic expectations of the child;
- asking for a child to be removed from home, or indicating difficulties in coping with a child, about whose care there are already doubts;
- domestic violence. The effects on children who witness domestic violence are serious. The possibility of such children also being physically abused must be borne in mind (see section on domestic violence).
- frozen watchfulness;
- fear of carers;
- refusal to speak;
- severe hostility/aggression towards other children.
The foregoing recognition and signs should not be used as a checklist or an arithmetical aid or a predictor kit. It is an aid to the exercise of professional judgement and assessment.
|This page was added to the website on 2 July 2015|
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