Recognizing Child Abuse
One of the first steps in helping abused or neglected children is learning to recognize the symptoms of child maltreatment.
While no single symptom alone proves that child maltreatment is present in a family, when symptoms appear repeatedly or in combination, they should cause us to take a closer look at the situation and to consider the possibility of child abuse or neglect.
Signs of Physical Abuse
Physical abuse is any non-accidental physical injury or threat of injury to a child by a parent or caretaker. Physical abuse includes cuts, fractures, bruises, shaking, burns and internal injuries.
Consider the possibility of physical abuse when the child:
Consider the possibility of physical abuse when the parent or other adult caregiver:
Signs of Physical Neglect
Physical neglect is failure to provide children with the adequate food, clothing, shelter, medical or dental care and supervision that they need to be healthy and safe. Physical neglect also includes abandonment and expulsion from home or not allowing a runaway to return home. It is important to distinguish between willful neglect and a parent’s or caretaker’s failure to provide the necessities of life because of poverty or cultural norms. A combination or pattern of physical indicators, child behavioral characteristics and caretaker characteristics indicates the possibility of physical neglect.
Consider the possibility of physical neglect when the child:
Consider the possibility of physical neglect when the parent or other adult caregiver:
Signs of Mental Abuse or Neglect
Mental abuse is a chronic pattern of behaviors, such as belittling, humiliating and ridiculing a child. Mental neglect is the consistent failure of a parent or caregiver to provide a child with appropriate support, attention and affection.
Consider the possibility of mental maltreatment when the child:
Consider the possibility of mental maltreatment when the parent or other adult caregiver:
Signs of Sexual Abuse
Sexual abuse is defined as acts of sexual assault and sexual exploitation of minors by parents or other caretakers. It includes a broad range of behavior and may consist of a single incident or many incidents over a long period of time. Because sexual abuse usually does not involve a violent attack, there may be little or no physical evidence that abuse has occurred.
Consider the possibility of sexual abuse when the child:
Consider the possibility of sexual abuse when the parent or other adult caregiver, in conjunction with the above, also:
Factors Negatively Affecting Family Life
Understanding is the first step toward helping families. Therefore, it is important for people to have some idea of the reasons for the occurrence of child abuse and neglect. However, because there is no simple “cause,” there can be no simple “cure.” We do know that certain factors have a powerful effect on family life. If these influences are negative, they can cause severe parental stress, lead to lack of control and result in child maltreatment.
The factors affecting families are:
The factors listed above can impact all families. Researchers consistently document that child maltreatment can occur in all communities — urban, suburban and rural; affluent and low-income; Anglo and communities of color; religious and nonbelievers.
Report Suspected Abuse or Neglect
To report suspected abuse or neglect, call the department of social services in the area in which the child lives or where the alleged abuse occurred. Ask for child protective services. If you feel that the child is in immediate and severe physical danger, call child protective services and/or local law enforcement immediately.