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Pennsylvania Family Law Updates, Events & Useful Tips Surrounding Family Law Issues

Emotional Abuse Just as Harmful as Physical Abuse

Posted in Custody

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In July of this year USA Today published an article by Kim Painter, highlighting a report published by the American Academy of Pediatrics, which identified psychological “maltreatment” as being just as harmful as other types of abuse.  “Maltreatment” or “Abuse” is more easily recognized as being physical or sexual in nature, however, the American Academy of Pediatrics has found that psychological abuse is linked to such difficulties as mental illness, delinquency, aggression, school troubles and life long relationship problems among those who were abused.  The Academy recognized the difficulty in identifying abuse, but defined it as “when an interaction between a parent and child inflicts harm and causes difficulty with the child’s emotional well being and development.”

Emotional abuse is an allegation occasionally heard in the context of custody cases.  As the American Academy of Pediatrics points out, it can be difficult to identify, particularly by parents, attorneys, and the Court who may not be trained to interpret and evaluate whether emotional abuse is occurring.  Nonetheless, such allegations should be treated seriously and may be identified through a custody evaluation. 

Depending upon the County in which you reside, custody evaluations may be required or they may require the permission of the Court to occur.  The facts of the case will dictate whether an evaluation or some type of counseling is necessary for the child.  Notwithstanding an abusive situation, it is fair to say that a child going through divorce may benefit from counseling in some way.

Emotional abuse can be extremely damaging to a child and, as demonstrated by the American Academy of Pediatrics, lead to life-long problems for its victims.  The hope is that by focusing on this form of abuse, that awareness may be raised and at-risk children identified earlier and appropriate caregivers and professionals can intercede on the child’s behalf.

Montgomery County is fortunate to have MCAP ("Montgomery County Child Advocacy Project") to provide legal representation and protection to abused children.  You can learn more about MCAP and what you can do to help their mission at

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http://www.mcapkids.org/.