In general, I don’t believe abuse to be unintentional and unconscious. There are many factors that play in though, especially with child abuse, which is another can of worms entirely. I mainly have experience with relationship abuse.
I believe many abusive parents come from abuse themselves and are acting based on learned behavior from their own parents or caretakers. In the case of my ex, he was abused as a child and his parents before him (and probably for generations back). Children are not capable of giving feedback in the same way adults are and might not know any other way either.
But deep down, I believe that abusive parents know and understand that their actions are damaging their children. You know as a parent whether you’re being strict and firm, or if you’re being neglectful of your kid’s feelings and wellbeing…
Anyhow, this is outside of what I have much experience with, so I’m sure there’s other theories here… I’d be happy to hear an expert view on this!
Thank you for reading!