Emotionally abused children will not always become emotionally abusive parents, however. Studies indicate that the number of abused children perpetuating the cycle of abuse is far lower than previously thought.
“In a survey of such studies, Joan Kaufman and Edward Zigler, psychologists at Yale, concluded that 30 percent is the best estimate of the rate at which abuse of one generation is repeated in the next. ” (New York Times article, “Sad Legacy of Abuse: The Search for Remedies“)
The study shows that the denial of abuse can be the greatest indicator of future trouble. Hence, the abused child who grows up to be an adult who denies having been abused has the greatest risk of becoming an abuser. But adult survivors of childhood emotional abuse who awaken to the truth of their damaging childhood, and strive to do the opposite of what they have been taught will NOT emotionally abuse their children.
If the adult seeks therapy and healing from an abusive childhood, the adult child can break the emotional abuse cycle and not perpetuate the abuse with their own children.
Healing from an emotionally abusive childhood can be very difficult, but as Andrew Vachss says:
Adult survivors of emotional child abuse have only two life-choices: learn to self-reference or remain a victim. When your self-concept has been shredded, when you have been deeply injured and made to feel the injury was all your fault, when you look for approval to those who can not or will not provide it—you play the role assigned to you by your abusers.
It’s time to stop playing that role, time to write your own script. Victims of emotional abuse carry the cure in their own hearts and souls. Salvation means learning self-respect, earning the respect of others and making that respect the absolutely irreducible minimum requirement for all intimate relationships. For the emotionally abused child, healing does come down to “forgiveness”—forgiveness of yourself.
How you forgive yourself is as individual as you are. But knowing you deserve to be loved and respected and empowering yourself with a commitment to try is more than half the battle. Much more.
And it is never too soon—or too late—to start.
Please seek professional help, read good books, turn to supportive friends, and don’t give up. Ever.