The Children's Alliance

Signs of Child Abuse & Neglect PDF Print Email
Monday, 01 April 2013 00:00

What is Child Maltreatment?

Maltreatment comes in four forms: physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and neglect.


Physical Maltreatment

Physical Abuse is defined as serious injury inflicted by or allowed by a parent/caregiver or substantial risk to a child by non-accidental means. Signs of possible physical maltreatment include:
•    Unexplained bruises in various states of healing.
•    Self-destructive behaviors such as hitting or biting oneself.
•    Welts, bite marks, bald spots.
•    Unexplained burns, especially burns that resemble cigarette burns or glove-like burns on the hands.
•    Unexplained fractures, abrasions, or wounds.
•    Expression of unusual fear of parent/caregiver.

Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse is any behavior of a sexual nature imposed on a child including fondling, masturbation, oral sex, vaginal or anal penetration (by a finger, penis or object), exhibitionism, child pornography, and suggestive behavior or comments. Signs of possible sexual abuse include:
•    Engagement in sexual behaviors that are not developmentally appropriate.
•    A detailed and sophisticated understanding of sexual behaviors.
•    Regression to behaviors such as thumb-sucking or limited speech.
•    Pain, itching, bruising, or bleeding in the genital area.
•    Delinquent or aggressive behavior, depression, or suicide attempts.
•    Substance abuse, self-mutilation, promiscuity, running away.

Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse is the expression of attitudes or behaviors toward a child that may create serious emotional or psychological damage. Signs of possible emotional abuse include:
•    Speech disorders, developmental delays.
•    Ulcers, asthma, severe allergies.
•    Habit disorders including thumb sucking or rocking.
•    Extreme passive or aggressive behavior.
•    Very low self-esteem, antisocial, or destructive actions.


Neglect is any serious disregard for a child’s supervision, care or discipline. Signs of possible neglect include:
•    Reported abandonment by parent/caregiver.
•    Unattended medical needs, lack of supervision.
•    Consistent hunger, inappropriate dress, poor hygiene.
•    Lice, distended stomach, poor social skills, begging or stealing food.
•    Frequent absences or tardiness at school.
•    Extreme fatigue or falling asleep in class.


This information is courtesy of Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina.


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