- Child abuse is when a caregiver either fails to provide appropriate care (neglect), purposefully inflicts harm, or harms a child while disciplining him or her.
- Common forms of child abuse include neglect, physical assault, emotional abuse, and sexual assault.
- Child abuse risk factors include issues that involve the victim, family, perpetrator, and community.
More potentially specific signs and symptoms of abuse may include the following:
- Neglect: The child may lose weight or fail to gain weight appropriately for their age. Their energy level and ability to learn will likely decrease. They may become withdrawn and show physical signs of malnutrition, like dry skin or hair or develop thinning hair.
- Physical abuse: A child who is the victim of physical abuse may have repeated physical injuries and emergency room or other doctor’s visits with or without adequate explanation. They may claim to be accident prone or provide other stories about how they sustained injuries and may tend to wear excessive clothing to cover injuries or otherwise engage in secrecy in an attempt to protect the abuser from intervention by child welfare authorities and law enforcement.
- Emotional abuse: Emotionally abused children may make negative statements about themselves or others that mimic the abuser, like calling his or herself names or otherwise exhibiting pessimism or low self-esteem.
- Sexual abuse: The child who has been sexually abused may exhibit sexual knowledge or behaviors that are much older than is appropriate for their age. They may also exhibit inappropriately sexual behavior, resulting in their engaging in masturbating excessively or in front of others, as well as participating in inappropriate sexual play with children. Medically, children who are sexually abused may develop genital injuries or sexually transmitted diseases.