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The Link Between Emotional Abuse and Sleep Disturbances

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In the 2009 Child Maltreatment report from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 3 million children were the subject of a Child Protective Services report, with one-fifth of them being victims of abuse. Of the abused children, 78.3 percent experienced neglect, 17.8 percent experienced physical abuse, 9.5 percent experienced sexual abuse, 7.6 percent experienced psychological abuse, and 2.4 percent experienced medical abuse, according to the report. When a child is psychologically or emotionally abused, it can deeply affect her. Examples of emotional abuse include the child being threatened or constantly criticized, or the abuser withholding support or love from the child. The Child Welfare Information Gateway from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services noted that in many cases, when a child is the victim of another type of abuse, such as physical or sexual, emotional abuse has also occurred.

Experiencing emotional abuse during childhood can have serious long-term effects on the child. For example, the Child Welfare Information Gateway stated that children who have been emotionally abused commonly experience depression. The long-term effects of childhood abuse may affect the person well into adulthood. A study published in the Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological and Social Sciences looked at the effects of childhood emotional abuse on sleep in elderly persons. The data for this study came from the National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States, which surveyed 3,487 adults in 1995 and followed up nine years later. The questions asked in 1995 pertained to participants’ childhoods. The follow-up questions asked participants about their relationships, sleep habits and emotional distress. All of the participants in the National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States spoke English and were not institutionalized. The sleep and emotional abuse study, conducted by Poon and Knight, used data from 877 adults who were ages 60 or over.

For sleep, participants were asked if they experience fatigue, have trouble waking up at night or too early in the morning, or if they have trouble falling asleep.

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