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Preventing and Treating Emotional Abuse: Getting it Right from the Start Jane Barlow Professor of Public Health in the Early Years. Structure of paper. Emotional Abuse – what is it? Why are the early years so important? What characterises ‘high risk’ parents? What should we be doing…?.
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Getting it Right from the Start
Professor of Public Health
in the Early Years
A constant, repeated pattern of parental behaviour, (unaccompanied by physical abuse, sexual abuse or necessarily by physical neglect) that is likely to be interpreted by a child that she or he is unloved, unwanted, serves only instrumental purposes, and/or which severely undermines children’s development and socialisation
- frequent and severe psychological control and domination;
- psycho/physical control and domination, humiliation, attacks on self-esteem
- withdrawal of their primary carer’s attention/affection
- antipathy, terrorising or threatening behaviours and proxy attacks
attachment system compromised
Sensitised nervous system as brain adapts to emotional environment
Stress in child
reminders & experiences of trauma,
life events, etc.
Unbearably painful emotional states
(Robin Balbernie 2011)
Face-to-face interactions emerge which are high arousing, affect-laden and expose infants to high levels of cognitive and social information and stimulation
To regulate this infant and mothers regulate the intensity of these interactions – ‘affect synchrony’ and repairs to ruptures
Absolutely fundamental to healthy emotional development – prolonged negative states are ‘toxic’ to infantsContingent Interaction
What is it:?
- Affective bond between infant and caregiver (Bowlby, 1969)
What is its function?:
- Dyadic regulation of infant emotion and arousal (Sroufe, 1996)
Antecedants of attachment:
Up to 80% of children who are abused have a ‘disorganised attachment’
In maltreating families parent-child interactions characterised by hostility; low levels of reciprocity, engagement and synchrony, unpredictability (ignoring plus intrusive hostility)
Disorganised attachment predicts very poor outcomes including a range of social and cognitive difficulties, and psychopathology
Safeguarding practitioners MUST have this developmental model at the core of their practice
Hyper-arousal (aggression, impulsive behaviour, children emotional and behavioural problems – ‘Fight or flight’ response)
Hypo-arousal (dissociation, depression, self harm etc)
‘Caroline is 18 months old. She lives with her mother, who is chronically depressed. The mother describes the household as ‘noxious to the soul’. She cannot tolerate the idea that her depression is affecting Caroline. She says: “Caroline is the only one who makes me laugh.”
It is observed that Caroline silently enacts the role of a clown. She disappears into her room and comes out wearing increasingly more preposterous costumes. Caroline makes her mother laugh, but she herself never laughs…’ (Howe, 1999)
- withdrawal, distancing or neglect (i.e. omission)
- intrusion in the form of blaming, shaming, punishing and attacking (i.e. commission)
- children exposed to severely compromised or traumatising (e.g. DV) environments (Lieberman et al 2008; 2004;
- parents who are emotionally abusive (Cicchetti et al 2006) or who have major depressive disorder (Toth et al 2006);
- preliminary clinical studies have also examined the value of this approach with parents with Borderline Personality Disorder (Newman & Stevenson 2008)
Manualisedprogramme; assessment driven (i.e. parents have mastered the skills) not time-limited;