Psychological maltreatment is not a term that is defined in Florida statute. Instead, Florida Statute 39 includes this area in the definition of harm. “Harm” to a child’s health or welfare can occur when any person inflicts or allows to be inflicted upon the child physical, mental, or emotional injury. In determining whether harm has occurred, the following factors must be considered in evaluating any physical, mental, or emotional injury to a child: the age of the child; any prior history of injuries to the child; the location of the injury on the body of the child; the multiplicity of the injury; and the type of trauma inflicted.
“Mental injury” means an injury to the intellectual or psychological capacity of a child as evidenced by a discernible and substantial impairment in the ability to function within the normal range of performance and behavior.
Some degree of psychological maltreatment is involved in any situation of child abuse and neglect, unless the child is killed. The emotional message of abuse and neglect to a child is that the person who is supposed to love you and take care of you is not doing so. This emotional message may have long-lasting effects, and yet is often not addressed during protective intervention. And those who report suspected abuse to the hotline often fail to consider and report the mental harm. This form of maltreatment is usually chronic and intense.
Broward County Public Schools uses a theoretical construct of psychological maltreatment that defines five main types of psychological maltreatment:
(1) Ignoring- failure to attend to a child’s needs on a consistent basis; deliberate withholding of nurturance and emotional support
(2) Isolating- Preventing the child from engaging in normal social interaction within the family and with peers
(3) Terrorizing- Physically or verbally threatening the child. This also includes the home situation where chaos and violence are the norm, such as domestic violence situations.
(4) Rejecting- Active failure to meet the child’s needs.
(5) Corrupting- Seeking to make the child unfit for normal social roles.
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