How to Identify a Child Who Is Being Emotionally Abused
Mandated reporters are persons who encounter the child as part of their occupation, including child daycare providers, educators, legal and law enforcement personnel, and medical personnel. These reporters have just as much of an obligation to report suspected emotional abuse as they do physical or sexual abuse or neglect—it should be taken just as seriously. Emotional abuse may be difficult to identify because it often takes place in the confines of a child’s home.
A child’s behavior can indicate if there’s a problem at home. Inappropriate behavior that is either very immature or a little bit too mature for the child’s age can indicate abuse, as well a dramatic behavioral change. For example, a child who was formerly slightly aloof or didn’t seek attention might all of a sudden become clingy to non-abusive adults or compulsively seek affection from them.
Here are some potential warning signs of emotional abuse:
- Desperately seeks affection from other adults
- Decline in school performance
- Developmental regression (like bedwetting or soiling after previously mastering bladder and bowel control)
- Frequent complaints of headaches, stomachaches, or other somatic issues with no known cause
- Loss of interest in social activities or other interests
- Delayed emotional development
- Attempts to avoid certain situations, such as going to an activity or another person’s house
- Desire to hurt himself or other people on purpose
- Low self-esteem