• Author Stephanie Hart

How Emotionally Abusive Parents Affect the Mental Development of a Child

With one in eight American children experiencing psychological abuse by parents before the age of 18, childhood trauma has become a predominant issue.

Children who experience neglect, manipulation, gaslighting, excessive control, criticism, and belittling (among other signs of abuse) by their parents exhibit signs of trauma that shape their outlook on life, perception of self, and relationships.


In her powerful and vulnerable memoir titled “Mirror Mirror: A Collection of Memoirs and Stories,” Stephanie Hart navigates the effects of having an abusive upbringing. Growing up with a mother who nourished her with love and kindness, only to follow it up with criticism about her physical appearance, and a father with frightening volatility, Hart recounts her harrowing experiences as a child of divorce.


Emotionally abusive parenting scars children by affecting their mental development. As these children grow into young adults, they carry their childhood trauma, remaining guarded, insecure, and untrusting of others.


Here are some ways in which this damage causes long-term trauma:


Distorted Sense of Self-Worth


“Put that cream tart down. You’re already beginning to blow up like a puffer fish.”

“Why can’t you focus like your brother? He’s a year younger than you but he’s already smarter than you’ll ever be.”


“Hold on [to the ladder], for God’s sake. You’ll fall on your face. Stupid, ugly girl.”

That last remark was part of an excerpt from Hart’s memoir; these comments unfortunately form a large part of the upbringing of many children across America. From being told that their intellect or physical appearance is inadequate to being invalidated, belittled, berated, manipulated, gaslighted, and guilt-tripped, toxic parenting distorts a child’s sense of self-worth.


“Sometimes when I look in the mirror, I see what my mother sees. I want to hide that fat, stupid, ugly little girl away from everyone,” Hart muses in her memoir.


Over time, children with emotionally abusive parents become extremely self-conscious and begin to internalize the criticism hurled at them. Not only does this affect their relationship with themselves, but it also prevents them from feeling worthy of love as they grow into adulthood.


The Development of Long-Term Learning Difficulties




Children with an unhealthy family dynamic begin to develop long-term learning difficulties that arise from emotional abandonment and implicitly and explicitly patronizing behavior. Their instinctive feelings of frustration and hurt are further trivialized by emotionally abusive parents, thereby pushing them deeper within the pitfalls of psychological turmoil.

Children may struggle to pay attention in school, socialize, retain information, and form healthy relationships with classmates, playmates, and teachers.


Reclusive and Untrusting Demeanor


As a child struggles to fit in by virtue of their psychological trauma, they’re very likely to become reclusive and develop an untrusting demeanor. Manipulative parents who dismiss, dehumanize, and withhold affection from children cause deep fractures that trigger long-term trust issues.


Over time, the child tries to seek comfort and solace in themselves. Their exposure to continual toxicity in their household prevents them from trusting others.


Psychological Disorders



As children with abusive parents enter their teenage years and adulthood, they develop a range of psychological disorders, which may include eating disorders, body disorders, generalized anxiety disorder, depression, PTSD, panic disorder, and antisocial personality disorder, among many others.


Their exposure to continual toxicity during their formative years has a lasting impact on their self-worth, thereby inhibiting healthy functioning.


Stephanie Hart traverses the impact of parental emotional abuse on her life with a strong focus on her journey towards healing, self-actualization, self-worth, and empowerment.


If you’re struggling to feel worthy, loved, and simply acknowledged as you tackle a volatile household or undo the trauma as an adult, we strongly recommend connecting with individuals who have undergone similar circumstances. Whether you join a support forum online, consider professional counseling, or embark on a vulnerable and powerful read that helps you initiate the healing process, reaching out is the first step towards untying the complex knots of trauma.


Stephanie Hart’s memoir, “Mirror Mirror: A Collection of Memoirs and Stories” navigates a strained mother-daughter relationship and her ability to come out stronger on the other side.

Browse through her collection of memoirs and stories for a glimpse of her heartwarming, authentic, and inspirational writing style that helps readers relate and take steps towards healing.

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