Emotional Abuse of Children Prevalent, Yet Hard to Prevent

New guidance for pediatricians highlights importance of assessment, potential interventions

MONDAY, July 30 (HealthDay News) -- Health care providers can help to promote sensitive and attuned parenting using a range of educational strategies to support families that are at risk for, or show evidence of, psychological mistreatment of children, according to a clinical report from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published online July 30 in Pediatrics.

Roberta Hibbard, M.D. and colleagues on the AAP's Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect, updated the "Psychological Maltreatment" guidance for pediatricians.

The committee members found that intervention should first focus on a thorough assessment and ensuring the child's safety. Acknowledging little is known on effective prevention or treatment for psychological maltreatment, the authors recommend pediatricians be alert to its occurrence and consider ways to support families who have risk indicators for this problem. Cognitive behavioral parenting programs and other psychotherapeutic interventions may be potentially effective treatments. Effective management is necessary to reduce the high prevalence of psychological abuse in advanced Western societies and its serious consequences, including disorders of attachment, developmental and educational problems, socialization problems, disruptive behavior, and later psychopathology.

"Pediatricians are uniquely positioned to educate those working in child welfare, child health care, and the judicial system about the complex needs of children exposed to psychological maltreatment," the authors write. "[They are] well situated to advocate on behalf of the child and can take on an important liaison role with professionals in the child welfare system."

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