Content Map Terms

Child Abuse: Emotional Abuse by Parents

British Columbia Specific Information

Physical, verbal, or sexual abuse at any time, at any age, or in any relationship is not ok.

Call 9-1-1 or your local emergency number if you or someone you know is in immediate danger from assault or abuse. To speak to someone confidentially and to get more information, call HealthLink BC at 8-1-1  (or 7-1-1 for the deaf and hard of hearing) or contact one of the services below.

  • Helpline for Children
    If a child anywhere in B.C. needs help, call the Helpline at 310-1234 any time of the day or night to speak to a social worker, no area code is needed. If you are deaf or hard of hearing, call 1-866-660-0505 for TTY services. This is a toll-free service, and there is no charge to call the operator if you need to call from a pay phone. This helpline is available for children, parents, and other community members to report abuse. For more information, visit Reporting Child Abuse in BC.
  • Kids Help Phone
    Children and teens can call the Kids Help Phone to speak to a counsellor day or night at 1-800-668-6868. Counsellors are available to speak to anonymously about concerns with abuse and can help children and teens call the police or child protective services. For more information about the resources and support available visit Kids Help Phone.
  • VictimLink BC
    If you or someone you know are a victim of crime and need more information or support, call VictimLink BC at 1-800-563-0808 for toll-free, confidential, multilingual service available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. For more information, visit VictimLink BC.
  • Seniors Abuse & Information Line
    If you are an older adult who has been abused or mistreated call the Seniors Abuse & Information Line (SAIL) at 604-437-1940 or toll free at 1-866-437-1940, 7 days a week from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., to get a referral to their legal advocate and other programs. For more information about their programs and resources visit Seniors First BC.

Topic Overview

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The behaviour of an emotionally abusive parent or caregiver does not support a child's healthy development and well-being—instead, it creates an environment of fear, hostility, or anxiety. A child is sensitive to the feeling, opinions, and actions of his or her parents. Emotionally harmful attitudes may include the following.

Showing a lack of regard for the child

This behaviour often includes rejecting the child by:

  • Not showing affection.
  • Ignoring the child's presence and obvious needs.
  • Ignoring the child when he or she is in need of comfort.
  • Not calling the child by his or her name.

Saying unkind things to the child

Emotionally abusive parents say things or convey feelings that can hurt a child deeply. Common examples include:

  • Making the child feel unwanted, perhaps by stating or implying that life would be easier without the child. For example, a parent may tell a child, "I wish you were never born."
  • Ridiculing or belittling the child, such as saying, "You are stupid."
  • Threatening the child with harsh punishment or even death.
  • Continuous verbal abuse.
  • Comparing the child to siblings or peers.
  • Blaming the child for family problems.

Creating an emotionally unhealthy environment

Some emotionally abusive parents place ill-advised or impossibly difficult expectations on their children, such as:

  • Encouraging the child to commit immoral or illegal acts.
  • Pressuring the child to grow up too fast.
  • Expecting the child to perform beyond his or her capability or maturity.
  • Isolating the child from family and friends.

Credits

Current as of:
September 23, 2020

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Thomas M. Bailey MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
John Pope MD - Pediatrics