Emotional and psychological abuse: problems of definition

Child Abuse Negl. 1995 Apr;19(4):449-61. doi: 10.1016/0145-2134(95)00006-t.


Defining "emotional abuse" and "psychological abuse" is a task made difficult by uncertainty as to whether or not such terms are synonomous and/or interchangeable. There is an increasing tendency in child protection literature to regard them as synonomous, or at least, to make little distinction between them. The purpose of this paper is to explore the origins of this tendency, and to provide an alternative view, namely, that the terms are not synonomous, and there should be different definitions for each. Existing commonly used definitions are reviewed. The definitions that this paper provides stem from important concepts in emotional and psychological development.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child Abuse / classification
  • Child Abuse / diagnosis*
  • Child Abuse / psychology*
  • Child Development
  • Child, Preschool
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Emotions*
  • Humans
  • Linguistics
  • Psychology, Child