Emotional abuse among children remains prevalent

One of many children facing emotional abuse. Photo Omar Mwalago
One of many children facing emotional abuse. Photo Omar Mwalago

Experts in children’s welfare are raising the alarm that cases of abuse towards children are now on the rise.

These cases have been reported in both school and home settings although studies are showing that children now say they feel safer at school than home.

Perpetrators are often people known and close to the children making intervention more difficult and the cases vary in both gravity and nature.

The abuses range from physical beating to more subtle and difficult to detect types of abuses.

Some instances of child abuse are clear cut like when a mother routinely kicks her eight-year-old son or a father enters his 12-year-old daughter’s room and molests her.

But what do you call it when a parent hurts a child without touching?  How about the father who persistently belittles his son for not playing football? Or the mother who refuses to let her children bathe because she doesn’t want to spend money on soap? Or the stepfather with a habit of berating his wife’s child as stupid.

Numerous and severe cases of serious emotional abuse of children continue to go unreported in the society, although most people recognize that repeated yelling, neglecting and cursing at a child leads to long-term emotional and psychological problems.

Even so, the figure that gets reported represents only a fraction of the number of children who suffer verbal and psychological mistreatment from their parents, peers and even from the society at large.

Emotional or psychological violence is a social aspect of abuse which is more common than sexual or even physical abuse among children by their parents and or elders. It is characterized by shouting, name calling, threats, assumptions, intimidation or emotional blackmail.

Commonly defined as a pattern of behaviour by parents or caregivers that can seriously interfere with a child’s cognitive, emotional, psychological or social development and also known as maltreatment.

Emotional abuse can be at home, school or by peers by bulling. Boys and girls are equally vulnerable to especially in adolescent stage.

In most cases children continue to suffer emotionally from reactions by parents who mainly focus on themselves and their needs rather than those of the children. This invariably accompanies sexual and physical abuse to the detriment of the children who do not have anyone to turn to.

One of the major aspects that tends to propagate emotional abuse among children is when parents are involved in a legal tussle that seeks for divorce and or custody of the children.

According to Solomon Mburu, an advocate based in Nakuru County, most parents tend to ignore the feelings and reactions of their children when it comes to such matters.

“Parents should not take advantage of stress to inflict abuse on their children be it physical or emotional,” explains Mburu.

Even in most ardent cases, critics cannot claim that family or children courts have any easy task. This is because a child’s case can be complex when one or both parents allege abuse.

Making the wrong decision can be devastating as children may be ordered to remain in the care of an abusive parent or be prohibited from seeing a loving one, with this mostly being done by the authority or relevant persons without caring and listening to the opinion or feelings of the children.

Custody cases are rarely pleasant, but in about 10 percent of these cases, it is usually a battle between the estranged and long-term effects on their children’s emotional and psychological wellbeing which can be devastating.

Research has it that about 56 percent of the children in custody cases develop attachment disorders that leave them unable to form friendships with others for fear of being abandoned.

Though little is known and much ignored child emotional abuse happens across all sectors of the society including different economic and ethnic groups as well as rural and city communities.

Maltreatment is linked to poor mental development and difficulty in making and keeping strong relationships which can in turn lead to problems in school and at work as well as criminal behaviour.

Other factors that lead to emotional abuse among children are financial woes, dealing with single parents, and substance and drug abuse among others. These circumstances see lots of children facing emotional abuse on different occasions.

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