Is screaming and cussing at your child considered emotional abuse?

My dad is always, and I mean always, cussing and screaming at me for no reason at all. He makes me feel stupid. He also compares me to my other siblings in a negative way and demeans me. Is this abuse?

Tamara Powell
Tamara Powell
Anything But Ordinary!

Oh my goodness, my heart goes out to you!!  I pray you have other strong and supportive loved ones or friends surrounding you. If you are in school, please consider speaking with a counselor on site who can help give you some good coping mechanisms as well as other resources.

I believe most therapists would agree that this type of behavior is indicative of emotional AND verbal abuse. And quite often the two overlap because someone who is being yelled at and demeaned is also frequently having his/her emotions preyed upon as well. 

Healthy Place offers us some great examples of emotional abuse which certainly fit the criteria of what you describe:

  • Yelling or swearing 
  • Name calling or insults; mocking.
  • Threats and intimidation.
  • Ignoring or excluding.
  • Isolating.
  • Humiliating.
  • Denial of the abuse and blaming of the victim.

And abuse survivor and author, Kellie Jo Holly, offers some other great examples of verbal abuse:

  • Emotionally Abusive Statements

    • You’re so cute when you try to concentrate! Look at you trying to think.
    • I can’t believe I love a stupid jerk.
    • Aw, come on, can’t you take a joke?

    Sexually Abusive Statements

    • You should know how to please me by now.
    • I hoped you were less experienced.
    • Stop acting like a whore.

    Financially Abusive Statements

    • You are going to nickel and dime me to death!
    • In what world does buying that make sense?
    • Fine. You handle your finances. Let me know when things go to hell.

    Societally Abusive Statements

    • How dare you spread around our private business!
    • Let me do the talking; people listen to men.
    • You took a vow in front of God and everybody and I expect you to honor it!

    Threatening and Intimidating Statements

    • If you don’t train that dog I’m going to rub your nose in its mess.
    • I will take our kids if you leave me.
    • You’re scared?! This isn’t angry! You will KNOW when I’m ANGRY!

    Spiritually Abusive Statement

    • Keep your stupid beliefs to yourself.
    • God will find a way to get you back, and it ain’t gonna be pretty.
    • I can feel myself being pulled into hell just listening to your nonsense!

It's been my personal clinical experience that children who are experiencing the types of things you describe often say they feel misunderstood, lonely, or scared and don't want to make things worse by standing up for themselves. 

Even if you feel you can't defend yourself outwardly, that doesn't mean your father's awful and toxic behavior is something you should ever internalize (i.e., believe to be true) which is why I hope you are surrounding yourself with people who will speak life and positivity back over you.  

We are ALL worthy of respect, love, and kindness. Don't ever forget that!

My love and light to you hon.

Tamara Powell, LMHC

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Eric Ström, JD, MA, LMHC
Eric Ström, JD, MA, LMHC
Attorney & Licensed Mental Health Counselor

I'm really sorry to hear that you are going through this.

It's a little difficult to answer your question because the laws that define child abuse are different from state to state. But usually, things like what you describe your dad is doing are not considered to be child abuse.

The more important thing is how you feel about what is going on. It sounds like this is really bothering you.

If you don't think you can talk to your dad about how you feel, you might want to try talking to another adult you trust (like a family member or teacher). They may be able to help you figure out some ways to communicate with your dad.

I think you might feel better if you can talk to someone about how your are feeling.

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care nor legal advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist/attorney nor does it create a therapist-client nor attorney-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Peggy  Phipps, LCSW
Peggy Phipps, LCSW
Main Line Adult Counseling, LLC / Your Life: Reimagined

Yes, this emotional abuse.  There is no abuse without emotional abuse.  His abuse is demeaning and can have lasting negative impact on your perspective of your self and people around you.  Please find someone support to talk to.  

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Lola Georg
Lola Georg
www.GeorgAssociates.com

Everyone deserves to be treated with dignity and respect. Having said that, everyone gets upset once in awhile and may yell or scream, which can be disrespectful. You said "always, and I mean always" and that is troubling. If your dad curses and screams at you on a regular and consistent basis, it can (as you stated) impact the way you feel about yourself. 

While the definitions of child abuse differ from state to state, talking to someone can help. Perhaps there is a counselor at school, or another trustworthy person you could confide in to help you understand how this situation is impacting you? Counseling is a good option. 

There is also help available through the national hotline at 1-800-422-4453, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can call (press 1) and talk to a counselor while being anonymous. You can also check out this website: https://www.childhelp.org/hotline/resources-kids/

I am sorry that you are going though this situation. There is help available. You do not have to go through this situation alone.

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide.   If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Sherry Katz, LCSW
Sherry Katz, LCSW
Couples and Family Therapist, LCSW

Yes, screaming and cussing at your child is considered abuse.

Here are two points I suggest you consider for your situation.

If your dad is ever calm when you and him are with one another,  ask for some time to talk about your relationship with him.

Schedule it for sometime in the near future from your request.   This way he has time to consider his points of view on his relationship to you.  

Even if he does no thinking about your relationship at all, he will not feel pressured by the surprise of suddenly being expected to talk about a topic he may prefer to prepare himself.

My second point to you is to keep steady in your own views of who you are.  When a parent demeans and mistreats a child, the child is affected in a negative way.  Concentrate on loving yourself and keeping people in your friendship circle who care about you.

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.

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