Psychological maltreatment can take many different forms, and clinicians need to be alert for the signs of abuse and neglect, according to Roberta Hibbard, MD, and colleagues on the AAP’s Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect.
Calling psychological and emotional maltreatment of children, “the most challenging and prevalent form of child abuse and neglect,” Hibbard and colleagues urged a “prevention before occurrence” approach, and urged clinicians to focus first on the safety of the child, and then promote healthy parenting.
The panel urged clinicians to pay attention to “acts of omission, which they defined as “ignoring need for social interaction,” or commission, which they defined as spurning a child on, perhaps even without an intent to harm. Hibbard and colleagues noted that psychological maltreatment has been associated with many social disorders later on in life, including developmental, socialization and psychopathophysiologic problems later on, so early identification is key.
Regarding possible interventions, Hibbard and colleagues recommended psychotherapeutic interventions like cognitive behavioral parenting programs.
“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,” Hibbard and colleagues wrote, adding that clinicians should serve as advocates for children, and promote sensitive parenting.
Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.