Children who are emotionally abused and neglected face similar and sometimes worse mental health problems as children who are physically or sexually abused, finds a new study.
According to the study, children who had been psychologically abused suffered from anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, symptoms of post-traumatic stress and suicidality at the same rate and, in some cases, at a greater rate than children who were physically or sexually abused.
Study lead author Joseph Spinazzola, PhD, of The Trauma Center at Justice Resource Institute, Brookline, Massachusetts, said that given the prevalence of childhood psychological abuse and the severity of harm to young victims, it should be at the forefront of mental health and social service training.
The study found that psychological maltreatment that occurred alongside physical or sexual abuse was associated with significantly more severe and far-ranging negative outcomes than when children were sexually and physically abused and not psychologically abused. Moreover, sexual and physical abuse had to occur at the same time to have the same effect as psychological abuse alone on behavioral issues at school, attachment problems and self-injurious behaviors.
The study was published online in the APA journal Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy.