Emotional abuse of children: issues for intervention

  • Celia Doyle

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This study is an examination of the emotional abuse of children, where it is the main or sole form of abuse. The ultimate aim of this applied social work project is to make a contribution to intervention in cases of psychological maltreatment. Intervention lacks credibility without some definition of the problem and an understanding of its prevalence, location and manifestation, as well as an appreciation of the type of intervention required. At the outset of the current project, an exploration of professional concerns, the wider context of child abuse and a review of the relevant literature revealed that, although defining emotional abuse has been partially addressed, there are substantial gaps and deficiencies in the knowledge of the prevalence, location, manifestation and intervention relating to emotional abuse. In order to facilitate intervention, these deficiencies were addressed in the current project. Both quantitative and qualitative data was required in order to address different aspects of the issues to be explored. Triangulation was therefore an integral part of the design, information being obtained from three sources: semi-structured interviews with child protection professionals, a population survey and in-depth interviews with adult emotional abuse survivors. The main outcome of the study was an increase in empirical knowledge in the areas of deficit and, consequently, a contribution to credible intervention. Specifically, a suggested operational definition and an indication of prevalence were both provided. Emotional abuse was found to occur in a broad range of families although it was more frequently located in those exposed to multiple stressors. It was most clearly manifested through behaviours which constituted a misuse of power. Concerning intervention itself, a notable contribution of the study was the identification of important life-lines for emotionally abused children. These provided the children with unconditional, positive regard and countered their sense of isolation and rejection
    Date of Award1998
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Northampton
    • University of Leicester
    SupervisorGillian N Penny (Supervisor)

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