Physical abuse of children carries undeniable marks of pain, but in many cases the hidden scars associated with psychological abuse may be more detrimental in the long run, according to an American Academy of Pediatrics position statement published Monday in the journal Pediatrics. Psychological abuse may be the most common form of child abuse and often the hardest to treat, according to the paper. "This is an area easily overlooked because it's hard to articulate," said Ruth Anan, director of the early childhood program at the Center for Human Development at Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, Mich.
Many child health experts have grappled with properly identifying and defining the threshold for psychological abuse. "We are talking about extremes and the likelihood of harm, or risk of harm, resulting from the kinds of behavior that make a child feel worthless, unloved or unwanted," said Dr. Harriet MacMillan, a professor in the departments of psychiatry and behavioural neurosciences and pediatrics at McMaster University's Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine in Ontario, and an author of the paper.
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