7 Types of Parental Abuse
A bruise should not be the requirement for evidence of parental abuse. There are many other ways a child can be harmed. While this list may not be all inclusive, it is meant to expand on the traditional definition of child abuse. Most states recognize some aspects of sexual abuse, physical abuse, or neglect but fail to fully address them while completely disregarding mental, verbal, emotional, financial, and spiritual. This list provides an opportunity to explore, evaluate, and discuss other types of child abuse.
Physical Abuse. Has the child experienced:
- Intimidation – Bullying by standing over, looking down, or getting “in your face” and refusing to back off.
- Isolation – Limiting ability to escape from or abandoning in dangerous situations.
- Restraint – Confines by blocking a doorway, locking doors with no key, or tying up.
- Aggression – Hitting, kicking, punching, arm twisting, pushing, beating, shoving, biting, slapping, striking with an object, shaking, pinching, choking, hair pulling, dragging, burning, cutting, stabbing, strangling, and force feeding (including overdose or misuse of drugs).
- Endangerment – Verbal threats of killing mixed with physical violence and use of weapons.
Mental Abuse. Has the child experienced:
- Rage – An intense, furious anger that comes out of nowhere, usually over nothing, startling and shocking the child into compliance or silence.
- Gaslighting – Lying about the past to intentionally making a child doubt their memory, perception, and sanity.
- The Stare – An intense stare with no feeling behind it.
- Silent Treatment – Punishment by ignoring for long periods of time.
- Projection – Parents dump their issues onto the child as the child did it.
- Twisting – When confronted, parents twist the truth to blame the child for their actions.
- Manipulation – Making a child fear the worst such as abandonment or rejection.
- Victim Card – When all else fails, parents play the victim card to control behavior.
Verbal Abuse. Has the child experienced:
- Extremes in Volume and Tone Voice – One way is to increase the volume by yelling, screaming, and raging. The second is complete silence, ignoring, and refusing to respond.
- Intimidating Words – Swearing and threatening language come easily when a child refuses to do what the parent wants.
- Intense Manner of Speech – It is argumentative and demanding with frequently interruptions, talking over, withholding key information, and interrogating.
- Personal Attacks – Common examples include criticizing, name calling, mocking responses, defaming character, berating feelings, and judging opinions.
- No Apology – Parents refuse to take responsibility, become hostile, invalidate or dismiss feelings of the child, lie, and conveniently forget promises or commitments.
- Blame Game – Anything that goes wrong is the child’s fault. Accuses child of being too sensitive and is overly critical of reactions.
- Browbeating – Typical sayings include: “If only you would…, then I won’t have to be this way,” “You don’t know how to take a joke,” “The problem with you is…,” and “That (verbal abuse) didn’t really happen.”
Emotional Abuse. Has the child experienced:
- Nitpicking – Whatever is important to the child is minimized in comparison to the parent’s agenda. The parent belittles accomplishments, aspirations, or personality in front of others. Teasing or sarcasm is commonly used to degrade and mock.
- Embarrassment/Shame – The parent shares private information without consent or exposes some shameful event. Constantly being reminding of shortcomings, often in a passive-aggressive way.
- Increased Anxiety – It is easy for a child to become anxious when questioned about every move, motive or aptitude.
- Excessive Guilt – Parents claim that they should be the most important person in the child’s life.
- Insecurity – From being held to an unrealistic, unattainable or unsustainable standard. Then when the child fails, they are treated as inferior.
- Confusion – Being treated as an extension of the parent, not as a separate person.
- Alienation – Belittling friends and other family members to convince child those people are unimportant.
- Anger/Fear – Parents generate anger in a child using of intimidation, threats, frightening behavior, or destruction of treasured possessions.
- Hostility/Rejection – Parents refuse to acknowledge worth by withholding love to create a threat of rejection.
Financial Abuse. Has the child experienced:
- Forbidden Access – To the child’s money or possessions that were given as gifts.
- Stealing – Parent steals, defrauds or exploits the child financially.
- Assets – Demands that all financial gifts or inheritances be placed in the parent’s name. Opens bank accounts in the child’s name without knowledge.
- Bills/Credit – Puts bills or credit cards in the child’s name without knowledge.
- Budget – Puts child on a strict allowance with impossible expectations thereby setting them up for failure.
- Spending – Punishes a child for spend their own money.
- Career – Forbids child from earning money or receiving an education.
Sexual Abuse. Has the child experienced:
- Grooming – Doing an unwanted or embarrassing sexual act designed to catch a child off-guard and create a feeling of trepidation.
- Molestation – Unwanted touching of private areas either the child touching or the parent touching.
- Sexual Exposure – Forcing a child to look at the parent’s private areas while the parent engages in a sexual act.
- Threatens Abuse – Dangles the possibility of abusing another person in order to bully the child into doing uncomfortable sexual acts.
- Inciting Fear – Child submits to unwanted sexual acts out of fear that the parent will hit, leave, humiliate, or punish.
- Destroying Principles – Escalation of sexual grooming to now include watching pornography with the child.
- Rape – The FBI defines rape as “Penetration, no matter how slight, of the vagina or anus with any body part or object, or oral penetration by a sex organ of another person, without the consent of the victim.” Most states have laws that expand on this definition saying that sex with anyone under the age of 16 or 18 is considered to be rape.
- Sadistic Sex – This includes: immobilizing a child through drugs or alcohol, administering pain during sex, typing a child up, physical beatings, choking, psychological torture, burning, cutting, stabbing, and murder before, during or after sex.
Spiritual Abuse. Has the child experienced:
- Dichotomous Thinking – Dividing people into two parts: those who agree with the parent and those who don’t. The parent makes fun of, belittles, and shows prejudice towards other’s beliefs.
- Elitism – The parent refuses to associate with people or groups they consider impure or unholy.
- Submission – Requires that the child completely adopts the parent’s point of view. There is no room for differing opinions or questioning their authority. Name calling, chastising, and the silent treatment are common maneuvers into compliance.
- Labeling – The child is taught at people who don’t comply with the parent’s beliefs are seen as disobedient, rebellious, lacking faith, demons, or enemies of the faith.
- Public Performance – Demands perfection and happiness from the child at all times. Religious activities such as attending church have extreme demands, excessive expectations, and rigidity.
- Legalistic – Strict adherence to the parent’s rules and regulations are commanded with absolute statements about insignificant issues such as hair color or clothing.
- Segregation – Estrangement from extended family members and friends outside of the religion. This includes shunning, alienation, or persecution.
- Blind Obedience – Is expected from the child to the point the child is expected to worship the parent.
- Abuse of Authority – Parents use their spiritual authority as justification for why the child should completely submit.
- Fraud – Parent engages in criminal misconduct or covers up the transgressions of others in the name of their religion. This includes covering up sexual abuse, physical abuse, financial felonies, and misdemeanors.
0-5 items in any section may indicate that a person is being groomed for abuse at a later time. Be mindful of any further escalation.
5 items or more in any section indicates abuse. Getting counseling for the abusive behavior is highly recommended.
Reminder: This list is a starting point to bring about discussion. There are many more ways a parent can be abusive to a child.
Christine Hammond is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor and a National Certified Couselor who lives in Orlando and is the award-winning author of The Exhausted Woman’s Handbook.
Hammond, C. (2016). 7 Types of Parental Abuse. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 23, 2017, from https://pro.psychcentral.com/exhausted-woman/2016/12/7-types-of-parental-abuse/