General Characteristics of Emotionally Abusive Mothers

BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images

No mother is perfect, but some behaviors and characteristics can indicate that she is emotionally abusive. Some of these emotionally abusive characteristics have been linked to mental illnesses such as addiction, according to Adults Surviving Child Abuse. Many children are affected by emotional abuse and carry the weight of their experiences to adulthood. In the 1997 study “Emotional abuse of children: issues for intervention,” published in “Child Abuse Review,” about 25 percent of survey participants reported that they had been emotionally abused by a parent.

She is Selfish

Many parents are expected to put their children’s needs above their own, but an emotionally abusive mom would do the opposite. Her own interests are prioritized over her child’s, according to Adults Surviving Child Abuse. Her actions do not reflect those of a mom who is looking out for the best interest of her child. An example is a mother who “mis-socializes” her child by encouraging him to engage in criminal or indecent behavior.

She Antagonizes

For an emotionally abused child, bullying starts in the home. The mother may be verbally abusive and hurl insults, rude names and put-downs at him. Her comments are degrading and she might demean her child publicly just to humiliate him. If her child shows that he is upset, she invalidates his feelings, either acting like his emotions don’t matter or that it is his fault for being too sensitive, according to “Signs of Emotional Abuse” on

She is Possessive

A mother who is emotionally abusive tends to be possessive and controlling, even when her children are adults. She may overlook different aspects of her child’s life and expect him to run all decisions by her, no matter how little. The child is not seen or treated as someone with thoughts and feelings independent from her own. If she does not have a close circle of friends, she may forbid her child from hanging out with friends, isolating him from his peers.

She is Manipulative

Emotionally abusive mothers know how to use emotions to manipulate their children. An emotionally abusive mom will play the victim if her child protests her requests or shows disapproval of her behavior. She might use emotional blackmail by holding back affection, giving the silent treatment or sulking to make her child feel guilty. When it comes to taking responsibility for her actions, she does not own up to her mistakes and usually blames her child. She may have a hard time saying sorry, or may never apologize at all.