Childhood emotional abuse (CEA) is the least researched but most common and psychologically harmful form of child abuse. While there is a robust body of feminist research into the gendered discourses framing child sexual abuse, domestic violence, and rape and sexual assault, there has been little feminist examination of CEA. This article reports on the findings from two interview studies with women who have backgrounds of CEA exploring how this form of abuse is constituted through gendered discourses, practices, and power relations. The studies were framed by McNay’s theoretical concept of situated intersubjectivity, which attends to both the discursive and material bases of gender oppression. Discourse analysis was used to examine the gender discourses and practices in women’s narratives of CEA. Based on the analysis of the interviews, CEA is theorized as a gender practice that is often concerned with imposing a traditional femininity on daughters, but it is also shown to encapsulate contradictions about contemporary femininities where rights to autonomy and independence sit in some tension with traditional expectations. The article adds to feminist theorization by considering how the gender discourses and practices constituting CEA and other forms of violence against women intertwine with structural gender power relations and considers the implications of these insights for social work practice.
Affilia: Journal of Women and Social Work – SAGE
Published: Aug 1, 2017
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