LN – What are the “silent” violence that most affect children’s health?


Manuela was 12 years old when, by letter, he sent her a
desperate request for help from her sister's psychologist: “I wanted to talk to you about my parents.
I feel they are very strict in the study, since failing is not an option. Once it happened to me that my teachers sent me a report on my performance and they only read me the bad things. They told me: 'There is a good part, but we are not going to read it to you'.
I got really bad, I cried at night thinking I was the worst daughter in the world and I didn't do anything right“.

Your case is not isolated and puts the consequences of
hyperexigence, one of the forms of aggression of parents against children that specialists consider more invisible and naturalized in all social classes. Psychological abuse, such as disqualifying a boy or girl telling him that it is “useless” or addressing them sarcastically with phrases like “let's see how the weaker kicks”; the threats that promise to withdraw love or even leave them alone; Indifference and not being receptive to the affection of children, whether rejecting physical contact or the request to look at a drawing they made, are other examples.

Hyperexigence, psychological abuse, threats and indifference, are some forms of naturalized and everyday abuse

“Violence is any act capable of causing harm”, summarizes Guillermo Thomas, head of the Clinical Psychology area of ​​the Pediatric Mental Health service of the Italian Hospital of Buenos Aires. Until not long ago, talking about abuse against children and adolescents meant, for most people, referring to those situations that often shock public opinion and involve physical and sexual aggression. However, pediatricians, psychiatrists and psychologists warn that
There are other types of “silent” and everyday violence that, although they do not leave marks on the body, impact on the psychic and physical health of children..

Although these aggressions are not new, society began to identify them more frequently in recent times. Thomas stresses that these 'more subtle' or 'disguised' attitudes are not harmless at all and leave traces for a lifetime.

The figures show a phenomenon that alarms. The UNICEF report “Violence against children and adolescents in the home environment” shows how aggression in child discipline is most often present in households with children under 12 years of age, compared to those where there are teenagers. Some of the data thrown show how
63.3% of households with at least one child between the ages of 2 and 17 use verbal aggressions as a method of discipline; on the other hand, in 22.2% they are shaken or shaken, in 16.4% they are called dumb or stupid, and in 61.5% they are shouted at.

Psychological abuse; the threats that promise to withdraw love or even leave them alone; indifference and not being receptive to the affection of children, whether rejecting physical contact or the request to look at a drawing, are some examples of aggressions against children
Psychological abuse; the threats that promise to withdraw love or even leave them alone; indifference and not being receptive to the affection of children, whether rejecting physical contact or the request to look at a drawing, are some examples of aggressions against children

Nora Fontana, a psychologist at the Parent Encounter Foundation, says that psychological violence is the most difficult for parents to perceive. “Adults are just learning these things, internalizing what it is about and they are surprised to learn that
not listening to the child, not standing up physically or psychologically according to the situation, is a type of violence; as well as not eating together, not communicating or underestimating them, it is emotional violence“says the specialist.

But there are many other everyday postcards that, for her, go unnoticed, such as leaving them alone at home or in the care of a little brother without being old enough to do so or spending hours in front of the TV. “Among the parents of more affluent classes, these cases may not occur so much, but when we do the parenting workshops, other situations appear, such as not registering that when they go to sleep, the boys stay with the phone on and that is just as bad, “says the psychologist.

Many times parents overexpose the kids believing they are giving them the best for them.

Silvia Ongini, child and youth psychiatrist

Silvia Ongini, child and adolescent psychiatrist of the Department of Pediatrics of the Hospital de Clínicas, explains that there are destructive forms of abuse that are wrapped in care and love. “Many times parents overexpose the kids thinking they are giving them the best for them. There is a book by psychologist Alice Miller called
For your own good: it is a phrase that is repeated and that is why this damage is very difficult for them to see, mark and accept, “he says.

Overflowing parents

For specialists, one of the keys to this profound disconnection between parents with their sons and daughters is that today society “is overwhelmed.”
The psychologist Maritchu Seitún stresses that stress, labor pressures and demands, lack of time and economic, “leave adults very much at the limit of our resistance and we can respond abusively because we are left without rest.”

In addition, he points out that there are many behaviors that parents have incorporated since childhood: “Before changing them, we must first become aware that they are abusive. This is not simple, because if we did we would also become aware, in a domino effect, of what we ourselves suffer, “reflects Seitún.

Although parents are the ones who face the greatest challenge, the referents consider that it is essential to consolidate new paradigms at the social level: “There is a crucial issue at stake: parenting is not an issue that concerns only the private, but also public, which must be a commitment of the states to protect the boys in any case “, remarks Hernán Monath, specialist in Protection of Rights of Unicef, and remembers that
the children are not property of the parents but subjects of rights.

According to psychologists, inherited stereotypes play a fundamental role. Nicolás Cacchiarelli, a pediatrician and member of the Argentine Society of Pediatrics (SAP), says: “From the birth of a baby these myths appear that you should not lift him, that he has to 'learn to cry', that he should self-regulate, etc. “. And he adds: “From that moment we must talk with parents about the need of children to have a company and loving care or, as described by WHO, a 'caring and sensitive care'.
Neurosciences proved that this type of upbringing improves development and decreases the risk of suffering a lot of diseases in adult life“.

Some parents,
the only thing they point to their children is what is wrong, making them feel unloved and limiting their self-esteem. That was the case of Manuela, whose letter to the psychologist went on like this: “Another thing is that if I do wrong in a test, always, but always!, They ask me: 'How did your friend do?' who prefer it before me. I can't think of a solution, if you can think of one, please tell me. “

Ongini points out that over-exigency implies “wanting to satisfy narcissism itself through the son used for the window.” He argues that we are in an era where the image is more hierarchical than other things and this causes cases of parents who seek to have the perfect child to be frequently visible. In that line,
Thomas adds that hyperexigence is an aggression “very frequent in the middle class in Argentina,” which occurs when we have an excessive expectation of boys.

Another frequent case in the offices is that of narcissistic fathers and mothers, more aware of themselves than of their children. “They compete with the children, seeing them as a threat in the sense that they show them what they did not achieve or do not have. In this way, there is a certain lack of recognition, support or accompaniment of the children in the achievements,” summarizes Ongini .

For Thomas,
those parents “are abandoned beyond paying for everything”, because they don't provide affection, interest and empathy to the boy. He feels devalued, because whatever he does receives a low emotional intensity affect.

To consider that children can decide everything is, according to Ongini, another form of contemporary abuse. “It is the contracara of the old diciplinamiento, that looked for to give them a rigid education so that the tree did not grow crooked”, explains the psychiatrist. And he details: “Since when they want to leave diapers and bottles, until they choose the garden. When a child is submitted to make decisions that his psyche is not mature to make, it is also a mode of violence and over-demand.”

The referents agree that the risks lie in the fact that, beyond the outbursts that parents may have, these violent behaviors are installed as a parenting model or that escalate in intensity. But always, in most cases, there are ways to rethink and act accordingly.
“The parents have the capacity to repair, to put themselves in the place of the boy. Not feeling guilty, but responsible”concludes Thomas.

How do these violence affect children's health?

  • Self-esteem is undermined, causing
    anguish and insecurity.
  • They can be the cause of
    socialization and learning problems, eating disorders, substance use and even physical self-harm.
  • The boys can reach
    reproduce the abuse received, because they believe it is the way to relate. Bullying is one of its manifestations.
  • They are a risk factor that increases the chances of suffering
    heart disease, depression, lung cancer, diabetes and anxiety, among others.
  • Over-adaptation or over-demand, together with the permanent feeling of not meeting the expectations of others and not feeling deserving of the affection of others, are some of the manifestations presented by boys who suffer hyperxigence from their parents.

To know more

  • Guides and resources:
    UNICEF offers audiovisual and reading material to educate in protective environments.
  • Workshops and talks: In his long career, the
    Parent Encounter Foundation organizes them in public and private institutions such as schools and clubs.
  • Articles and reflections: The
    Argentine Society of Pediatrics offers articles on emotional violence and advice to identify naturalized aggressions.

Publicado en el diario La Nación