A major children’s charity has seen a huge rise in emotional abuse being reported over the past seven years – soaring by 427 per cent.
And the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children says even those figures don’t reveal the full extent of the abuse that can make children feel worthless and unloved.
NSPCC Helpline staff say they are hearing accounts of parents telling their children they hate them or wished they were dead, threatening them with extreme violence and blaming them for issues such as unemployment or financial problems.
Many callers are fearful that the emotional abuse will become physical.
And experts say it can have a profound effect on a child’s development, leading to issues in later life, such as depression, anxiety, eating disorders, substance misuse and suicidal feelings.
The figures were released at the start of the charity’s annual conference as its annual report ‘How Safe Are Our Children’ found that since 2009/10 the number of contacts to the NSPCC Helpline from people concerned about children in Scotland being subjected to emotional abuse has risen from 83 to 438 in 2016/2017.
Of those, 335 were referred to police and/or children’s services.
Now, NSPCC Scotland wants the government to do more research to find out the true scale of abuse.
Joanna Barrett, acting head of service for NSPCC Scotland, said: “Hearing reports from our Helpline about parents or carers who are verbally assaulting, bullying, isolating or humiliating their children is devastating.
“The huge increase in people recognising and reporting emotional abuse indicates people are willing to take action, but the disturbing truth is that the UK has no idea how many other children are suffering from emotional abuse or in fact, any type of abuse.
“We urgently need the Scottish Government in conjunction with the UK Government to step in now, before another eight years go by, and commission a study that gives us the clearest possible picture of the extent of child abuse and neglect in the UK.”
Any adult worried about a child can contact the NSPCC Helpline on 0808 800 5000.