Emotional child abuse is virtually inevitable in the context of the traditional nuclear family and often has a more detrimental effect on children than other, more widely publicized forms of maltreatment. This paper documents clinical, statistical, and empirical evidence showing that "normative" child-rearing practices in our culture have pathogenic properties and effects.

Manifestations of emotional child abuse include:

(1) behaviors based on parental hostility such as verbal abuse, sadistic socialization measures, lack of respect for the child's personal boundaries, threat of abandonment, and stifling a child's spontaneity;
(2) destructive practices based on indifference and neglect, including excessive permissiveness and inconsistency;
(3) behaviors based on ignorance, including dishonest role-playing, overprotection, and isolation;
(4) overly restrictive or harsh moral codes; and
(5) parents' defenses and addictive patterns that are transmitted to their children.

A number of factors are involved in the psychodynamics of emotional maltreatment: parents' ambivalent feelings, the projection of parents' negative traits onto children, the confusion between emotional hunger and genuine love, the exclusivity of traditional coupling, and the utilization of the child as a symbol of immortality. It is mandatory that we examine dehumanizing child-rearing practices delineated here in order to help future generations of children.

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Daniel E.
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