consequences of the human condition is the abusive manner in which people can treat each other, sometimes without even consciously realizing it. Although even otherwise-loving and happy couples who appear to "have it all" may experience emotionally abusive behaviors from time to time, when these patterns of behaviors persist, they can work an enormous toll on their victims as well as their perpetrators. Unfortunately, studies have shown time and again that emotional abuse tends to perpetuate itself from one generation to the next, making the need for timely and effective interventions essential. The implications of emotional abuse are profound and include both social as well as economic costs that demand more attention from the healthcare community to break the vicious cycle of intergenerational emotional abuse. To this end, the reason for writing this study included identifying current approaches and best practices for emotionally abusive situations.
Overview of Sources
A preliminary review of the recent (within the last 10 years or so), relevant peer-reviewed and scholarly sources at both public and university libraries indicated that a vast body of research exists on emotional abuse. A priority will be assigned to locating additional scholarly resources of this type for the formal study; however, in order to obtain as much recent and reliable information concerning the incidence and consequences of emotional abuse, appropriate government online resources such as the United States National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect (1996) and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will also be consulted for the most current estimates of incidence of emotional abuse in the United States. Additional online resources will also be consulted as hyperlinks on these governmental Web sites are reviewed and useful data that is serendipitously identified will also be incorporated where appropriate.
Although there remains a need for additional research in this area, the general consensus that emerged from the preliminary review of the available sources indicated that a general consensus exists that women are at higher risk of emotional abuse than men, but emotional abusive behaviors are not restricted to men alone. Another general consensus that emerged from the preliminary research was that emotional abuse can assume a wide variety of forms that may not be readily recognizable as emotionally abusive behavior, but which can have the same adverse effects as more readily discernible types of emotionally abuse behaviors. Finally, a common theme that emerged from the preliminary research was the cyclical nature of the problem, with emotionally abusive behaviors being passed from one generation to the next in a vicious cycle of repetition that defies easy solutions (Engle 2002).
The main differences that were discerned during the preliminary research between the resources that were reviewed primarily concerned what type of interventions were best suited for a given situation, as well as what steps can be taken to break this vicious cycle over time (Kaukinen 2004). The novel that was read for this study was Barbara Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible that provides first-hand accounts of women trying to adapt to untenable circumstances. In this novel, Kingsolver presents a poignant analysis of how emotionally abusive behaviors can adversely affect a family unit, particularly with respect to the Orleanna, the wife of a Baptist missionary dispatched to the Congo to save souls at the expense of her own well-being. The key points from this novel will be incorporated into the final study by examining the author's main points and tying these to emotionally abusive behaviors in general.
The thesis statement for this project is as follows: "Children who are raised in emotionally abusive homes tend to perpetuate emotionally abusive behaviors in their future relationships unless and until the cycle is broken." In order to thoroughly address this thesis statement, this paper will focus on studies of intergenerational emotional abuse.
Expectations for Final Product
The final product is expected to be an approximately 10-page long doubled-spaced study that draws on the various resources that were described above as well as those additional resources that are identified during the subsequent research process. The study will use MLA format, Times New Roman font 12 point, with standard 1-inch margins on all sides. It is my expectation that the findings that emerge from this study will help educate readers concerning the extent of the problem of emotional abusive behaviors, and to take a hard look at themselves to determine if they are practicing such behaviors themselves or have been the victims of such behaviors in the past.
On its face, emotional abuse appears to be a straightforward construct that can include just about any type of behavior that does not include outright physical violence that is intended to evoke a hurtful response from the victim. Even the preliminary review of the literature, though, quickly made it clear that emotional abuse transcends this popular understanding and can include a wide range of behaviors that can wreak long-term damage to a relationship and adversely affect all members of the family in the process. In fact, even consistently displaying some types of negative attitudes can be categorized as being emotionally abusive behaviors. Therefore, by identifying the continuum along which emotional abuse exists, I believe this study can help educate others concerning what constitutes emotional abuse, the extent of the problem as well as what can be done to break this vicious cycle of abuse.
Engle, Beverly. The Emotionally Abusive Relationship: How to Stop Being Abused and How to Stop Abusing. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2002.
Kaukinen, Catherine. (2004). "Status Compatibility, Physical Violence and Emotional Abuse in Intimate Relationships." Journal of Marriage and Family 66(2): 452-455.
Kingsolver, Barbara. The Poisonwood Bible. New York: Harper Flamingo, 1998.
Formal Sentence Outline
The thesis statement for this project is as follows: "Children who are raised in emotionally abusive homes tend to perpetuate emotionally abusive behaviors in their future relationships unless and until the cycle is broken."
This paper provides a review of the relevant peer-reviewed and scholarly literature concerning the general aspects of emotional abuse followed by a discussion concerning the implications of emotional abuse on both victims and perpetrators.An examination of interventions that have been used for emotionally abusive relationships is followed by a summary of the research and important findings in the conclusion.
Review and Discussion
Background and Overview.
Emotional abuse exists along a continuum of that includes elements of both violence and control over another person (Kaukenin 452). It is important to distinguish physical violence from emotional abuse; physical violence includes a minimum of one type of physical assault (slaps, pushes, kicks, hits, bites, beatings, choking, weapon use, forced sex); by contrast, emotional abuse can include financial abuse, limiting contact with family members, put-downs, sexual jealousy, threatening harm to others, controlling the respondent's movements, destruction of property, and threats of physical violence, among others, some of which may not be readily identifiable as emotionally abusive behaviors (Kaukenin 452). Indeed, as Smullens points out, emotional abuse transcends popular understandings: "When most people think of emotional abuse, they usually think of one or both partners belittling or criticizing the other; however, emotional abuse is much more than verbal abuse" (17).
Because emotional abuse is complex, it is therefore important to define the term. According to Smullens, emotional abuse can be defined as including any type of nonphysical behavior that is intended to subjugate, demean, punish, control, intimidate, or isolate another individual through the use of humiliation, degradation, fear or a combination thereof (17). This authority adds that, "Emotionally abusive behavior ranges from verbal abuse (belittling, berating, constant criticism) to more subtle tactics like intimidation, manipulation, and refusal to be pleased" (Smullens 17).
Incidence and Costs of Emotional Abuse
Emotional abuse is underreported and precise figures are not available. Recent estimates by the United States National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect place the overall rate of child maltreatment at 1.5 million children in the U.S.; of these abused children, 204,500 are recorded for emotional abuse and 212,800 are categorized as emotional neglect (Sedlak, 1996). Currently, child abuse is the most common type of emotional abuse, with current estimates indicating that almost one-third (29%) of children in the U.S. have experienced some type of emotional abuse while 14% had experienced physical abuse and 9% who had been sexually abused (Sedlak, 1996). Exposure to domestic abuse was shown to be another type of emotional abuse of children (Sedlak, 1996).
As noted above, precise estimates are impossible to come by but current estimates place the costs that are associated with emotional abuse very high indeed, with the long-term consequences including almost $70 billion a year for related juvenile and adult criminal activities, as well as mental health, domestic violence and substance abuse intervention services; the direct costs that have been associated with childhood emotional abuse have been estimated at nearly $25 billion a year (Sedlak, 1998).
Implications of Emotional Abuse.
Emotional abuse is clearly distinguished from physical abuse. This means that its effects are not…