Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Departmental Honors


Sociology, Social Work, and Anthropology


The very nature of emotional child abuse makes it difficult to detect and report. Nevertheless, scholars and professionals in the field of child welfare have identified emotional abuse as being equally detrimental to children as physical abuse and neglect. Many states, including Utah, have unclear definitions of emotional child abuse. The purpose of this study is to interpret how Utah has used its statute on emotional abuse in the court system and whether the current definition of emotional child abuse has given Utah’s courts enough information and direction to prosecute those who emotionally abuse children. Data was collected by researching the legislative history of the statute, compiling cases of emotional abuse that have come before the Utah Court of Appeals, and interviewing professionals who have dealt with cases of emotional abuse in Utah. This study concludes that although child emotional maltreatment, once reported, is being adequately treated therapeutically when cases involve other types of abuse, it is not being addressed adequately in the court system when emotional abuse is solely in question. There is a need for more direction in the legal community in defining and responding to emotional child abuse.

Included in

Sociology Commons



Faculty Mentor

Christy Glass