Types of Abuse

Recognizing Child Abuse

The following signs/behaviors in a child may signal the presence of child abuse or neglect:

  • Sudden changes in behavior or school performance;
  • Has not received help for physical or medical problems brought to the parents’ attention;
  • Has learning problems (or difficulty concentrating) that cannot be attributed to specific physical or psychological causes;
  • Is always watchful, as though preparing for something bad to happen;
  • Lacks adult supervision;
  • Is overly compliant, passive, or withdrawn; or
  • Comes to school or other activities early, stays late, and does not want to go home.

The following signs/behaviors of a Parent may signal they are abusive:

  • Shows little concern for the child;
  • Denies the existence of, or blames the child for the child’s problems in school or at home;
  • Asks teachers or other caretakers to use harsh physical discipline if the child misbehaves;
  • Sees the child as entirely bad, worthless, or burdensome;
  • Demands a level of physical or academic performance the child cannot achieve; and
  • Looks primarily to the child for care, attention, and satisfaction of emotional needs.

In addition, both Parent and Child may have the following signs/behaviors:

  • Rarely touch or look at each other;
  • Consider their relationship entirely negative; or
  • State that they do not like each other.

Types of Abuse

The following are some signs often associated with particular types of child abuse and neglect: physical abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse. It is important to note, however, these types of abuse are more typically found in combination than alone. A physically abused child, for example, is often emotionally abused as well, and a sexually abused child also may be neglected.

Signs of Neglect

Consider the possibility of neglect when the child:

    • Is frequently absent from school.
    • Begs or steals food or money.
    • Lacks needed medical or dental care, immunizations, or glasses.
    • Is consistently dirty and has severe body odor.
    • Lacks sufficient clothing for the weather.
    • Abuses alcohol or other drugs.
    • States that there is no one at home to provide care.

Consider the possibility of neglect when the parent or other adult caregiver:

    • Appears to be indifferent to the child.
    • Seems apathetic or depressed.
    • Behaves irrationally or in a bizarre manner.
    • Is abusing alcohol or other drugs.

Signs of Physical Abuse

Consider the possibility of physical abuse when the child:

    • Has unexplained burns, bites, bruises, broken bones, or black eyes.
    • Has fading bruises or other marks noticeable after an absence from school.
    • Seems frightened of the parents and protests or cries when it is time to go home.
    • Shrinks at the approach of adults.
    • Reports injury by a parent or another adult caregiver.

Consider the possibility of physical abuse when the parent or other adult caregiver:

    • Offers conflicting, unconvincing, or no explanation for the child’s injury.
    • Describes the child as “evil,” or in some other very negative way.
    • Uses harsh physical discipline with the child.
    • Has a history of abuse as a child.

Signs of Sexual Abuse

Consider the possibility of sexual abuse when the child:

    • Has difficulty walking or sitting.
    • Suddenly refuses to change for gym or to participate in physical activities.
    • Reports nightmares or bed wetting.
    • Experiences a sudden change in appetite.
    • Demonstrates bizarre, sophisticated, or unusual sexual knowledge or behavior.
    • Becomes pregnant or contracts a venereal disease, particularly if under age 14.
    • Runs away.
    • Reports sexual abuse by a parent or another adult caregiver.

Consider the possibility of sexual abuse when the parent or other adult caregiver:

    • Is unduly protective of the child or severely limits the child’s contact with other children, especially of the opposite sex.
    • Is secretive and isolated.
    • Is jealous or controlling with family members.

Signs of Emotional Maltreatment

Consider the possibility of emotional maltreatment when the child:

    • Shows extremes in behavior, such as overly compliant or demanding behavior, extreme passivity, or aggression.
    • Is either inappropriately adult (parenting other children, for example) or inappropriately infantile (frequently rocking or head-banging, for example).
    • Is delayed in physical or emotional development.
    • Has attempted suicide.
    • Reports a lack of attachment to the parent.

Consider the possibility of emotional maltreatment when the parent or other adult caregiver:

    • Constantly blames, belittles, or berates the child.
    • Is unconcerned about the child and refuses to consider offers of help for the child’s problems.
    • Overtly rejects the child.

 

REPORTING ABUSE

 

Statewide: 877-244-0864

Emergency Calls: 911

Resources
Identifying Child Abuse and Neglect
www.childwelfare.gov/can/identifying
Resources and information from the Child Welfare Information Gateway website about signs and symptoms of child maltreatment, including training resources.

Preventing Child Abuse and Neglect
www.childwelfare.gov/preventing
Resources and information from the Child Welfare Information Gateway website.

This information used with permission from Child Welfare Information Gateway.