ARAB TIMES, SUNDAY, OCTOBER 26, 2014 HEALTH 37 Emotional damage more severe than physical or sexual abuse For kids, psychological abuse may leave deepest scars NEW YORK, Oct 25, (RTRS): Psychological cruelty to children from parents or caregivers can cause as much — or even more — emotional damage than physical and sexual abuse, according to a new US study. The diagnosis is being overlooked and undertreated compared to physical forms of abuse, researchers say. “When you look at symptom severity, there was no difference between the three forms of maltreatment,” said Joseph Spinazzola, lead author of the study. Psychological trauma is different from “dysfunctional parenting,” where moms or dads periodically lose their tempers. “It’s sort of living in this situation where they’re not receiving any kind of love or warmth and instead they’re receiving either hostility, threats or impossible demands, almost as if they are an enemy or monster, a pathetic unlovable creature . . . .,” said Spinazzola, executive director of The Trauma Center at Justice Resource Institute in Brookline, Massachusetts.The study used the National Child Traumatic Stress Network Core Data set to analyze the cases of 5,616 youth with histories of psychological, physical or sexual abuse. The children were ages 2 to 10 at the start of the data collection, which took place from 2004 to 2010. Forty-two percent were boys and 62 percent had a history of psychological abuse. Trauma The children and their parents or caregivers were interviewed by clinicians and also answered questions about behavioral issues and trauma on questionnaires. All three groups of children had scores in the same general range for so-called “internalizing problems,” like social withdrawal, sadness, loneliness, difficulty concentrating or sleeping, and symptoms like headaches or stomachaches. But children who had been psychologically abused were more likely to have negative outcomes over the long-term than victims of physical or sexual abuse. They were 92 percent more likely to have trouble with substance abuse, 78 percent more likely to be depressed, 80 percent more likely to experience separation anxiety disorder and 92 percent more likely to be anxious, according to a paper scheduled for an upcoming issue of the journal Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy. Compared to children who had been sexually abused, the psychological abuse group was also 65 percent more likely to have academic problems, 91 percent more likely to engage in criminal activity, 47 percent more likely to injure themselves and 147 percent more likely to have attachment problems. “One thing that struck me was that, of the forms of trauma measured by this core data set, psychological abuse was the most enduring form of maltreatment,” Spinazzola said. “When psychological abuse co-occurred with the other two, the presence of psychological abuse heightened the negative effects to a greater magnitude than when they occurred in the absence of psychological abuse.” But psychological abuse is often overshadowed by physical and sexual abuse, the researchers note. In one previous study, only 7.6 percent of psychological abuse was reported to child welfare agencies. Other research found psychological abuse was investigated only 36 percent of the time (compared to 53 percent of physical abuse cases and 55 percent of sexual abuse). “I think there’s a hesitancy to label a parent as engaging in psychological abuse because of that fear of unfairly blaming a parent for just being human and imperfect,” said Spinazzola. ❑ ❑ ❑ Bullied lesbian, gay and bisexual high school students are less likely to fight and attempt suicide when they feel connected to an adult at school, suggests a new study. Helping these lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGB) kids develop meaningful connections with adults at school could minimize the negative impacts of cyber and school bullying, researchers say. “The findings of our study highlight the difference teachers can make in the lives of LGB (and transgender) youth who are victims of bullying,” said Jeffrey Duong, the study’s lead author from the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public health in Baltimore. Duong co-authored the paper with Catherine Bradshaw, who is an associate dean at the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville. “Simple gestures such as reaching out to sexual minority youth who might have been victimized, and developing meaningful and supportive connections with them, might buffer them from the consequences of bullying,” Duong told Reuters Health in an email. Duong and Bradshaw examined information from 951 self-identified LGB high school students who completed the New York City Youth Risk Behavioral Survey during the fall of 2009.
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