• Told in the past and nothing happened.
  • Told in the past and Mom got mad.
  • Told in the past, Dad found out and Mom / family got hurt.
  • Tried to tell in the past and no one listened.
  • Fear Dad will find out and kill Mom / them (he may have threatened this).
  • Believe that Dad is omnipotent and will hear them.
  • Ambivalence.
  • Fear access will be stopped.
  • Want extra benefits of seeing Dad.
  • Fearful that Dad will go to jail.
  • Shame: Protecting Mom / Dad / Family reputation.
  • Need to believe that Dad loves them and would not hurt them intentionally.
  • May not remember what happened.
  • Need to remain in contact with Dad to assess his danger.
  • Angry and blame both parents.
  • Don’t have the language / words.
  • Think abuse is normal.


Relationships with Parents

  • Loss of respect for Mom because they see her as weak and ineffectual, she is then unable to enforce boundaries.
  • Ambivalent feelings towards both parents, love Dad but hate him for what he does, love Mom but hate her for not stopping the abuse.
  • Family relationships become distant / enmeshed versus stable / cohesive / flexible family unit.
  • Diminished respect for both parents, don’t want to be like either one of them.
  • May become responsible for parents — the parentified child. The child may feel responsible and the parents may treat the child in age / role inappropriate ways.
  • May see Dad as emotionally inaccessible and then always be looking for the right time to approach him.
  • They may have few direct ways of getting needs met and end up resorting to manipulative behaviour.

Effects on Health

  • Somatic complaints.
  • Nervous / anxious: a sense that something will happen.
  • Short attention span, many children will be diagnosed with ADHD.
  • Failure to thrive and / or move through developmental tasks.
  • Stress related illness. Illness may be the only time they get any nurturing.
  • Confusion between illness and depression, in young children the symptoms may appear quite similar.
  • May feign illness as a way to stay home because they want to be home to protect Mom.
  • As a way to keep others distant they may not attend to personal hygiene.

Social Effects

  • Unable to risk getting to know new kids, few close friendships.
  • Can’t solve problems so relationships end.
  • Poor boundaries: tries to parent other kids, does not respect others’ privacy, personal space, may be reticent about giving personal info.
  • Lack of confidence in own abilities, gives up easily, won’t try new things and is no fun for other kids.
  • Sense of not fitting in, mixture of mature / immature behaviour, no one else is like me.
  • Competition with siblings.
  • Isolated, no one really likes me, afraid of bullies, doesn’t really know how to react to other kids.
  • Trouble trusting because of the violation of the primary trust with parents.
  • Perception of conflict as being inherently disrespectful, poor to no conflict resolution skills.
  • Occupies either a passive or bullying role with respect to other kids.

Effects on Behaviour

  • Acting out or withdrawing.
  • Over / underachieving: motivation is the issue. Self-esteem relies on external validation so nothing but the very best performance is good enough.
  • Passive / aggressive, rarely assertive.
  • Care-taking, acting in adult roles.
  • Rigid defences: aloof, sarcastic, blaming.
  • Nightmares and other sleep problems.
  • Age inappropriate behaviour, mixture of mature and immature behaviour.

Emotional Effects

  • Scared all the time because the world is an unpredictable place.
  • Responsible for the abuse, for parents staying together or separating, to protect Mom and other kids, for keeping the secret, taking care of things ….
  • Parents may respond poorly to kids’ feelings, than they don’t learn how to express themselves and don’t feel safe to even try.
  • Distorted boundaries: tight or lose versus flexible.
  • Weak or rigid personal boundaries.
  • Dad is the only one allowed to indulge in self-expression.
  • Mom often receives increased abuse for her expressions which may include crying.