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Emotional abuse/harm happens when a caregiver treats a child in an extremely negative way that damages self-esteem and the concept of “self.” This type of behaviour might include constant yelling, demeaning remarks, rejection or isolation, or exposing a child to domestic violence.


These are actions, failures to act or patterns of neglect which result in the child demonstrating serious anxiety, depression, withdrawal, self-destructive or aggressive behaviour or delayed development in a child. 


Emotional abuse also occurs when a child exhibits these serious behaviours and the person having charge of the child does not provide services or treatment to alleviate the harm.

The signs and indicators of emotional abuse may include but are not limited to those that follow. It is important to realize that the presence of any one indicator is not conclusive proof that a child has been abused. In most instances, abused children will exhibit a number of behavioural and physical indicators.

Behavioural indicators in children

  • Severe depression

  • Extreme withdrawal or aggressiveness

  • Overly compliant, too well mannered, too neat or too clean

  • Extreme attention seeking

  • Display of extreme inhibition in play

Physical indicators in children​​

  • Bed wetting that is non-medical in origin

  • Frequent psychosomatic complaints, headaches, nausea, abdominal pains

  • Failure to thrive, e.g., poor weight gain​

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