The Many Signs of Physical, Emotional, Sexual Child Abuse or Neglect
The earlier child abuse is discovered, the better the chance the child will recover and lead a normal life. It’s very important that it be caught early on. Fortunately, there are many warning signs that a child is being physically, emotionally, or sexually abused. With a little bit of observation and thoughtful evaluation, you can analyze the child’s situation and spot the warning signs that point towards a child in an abusive situation.
Child abuse is often categorized as either emotional, physical, sexual abuse, or neglect. Each type of abuse results in different signs that you can key on to determine whether the child is being abused. In any case, suspected child abuse should be reported to the authorities so the situation can be further investigated.
Signs that may indicate a child is being emotionally abused
Emotional abuse entails the parent or caregiver abusing the child through belittling, coldness, corrupting, harassing, ignoring, isolating or terrorizing the child. It entails much more than mere verbal abuse. It is an attack on the child’s emotional and social development and is a threat to healthy human development.
The following are warning signs that a child may be emotionally abused:
- The child may be fearful of doing something wrong.
- The child may suffer headaches or stomachaches with no medical cause.
- You may notice sudden changes in the child’s self-confidence. The child is essentially “beat down” until they are no longer confident in their own abilities.
- The child may show extremes in behavior. For instance, they may be extremely compliant or extremely demanding or they may be extremely passive or extremely aggressive.
- The child may act excessively adult (e.g. taking care of other children or taking care of the parent) or extremely infantile (e.g. rocking, thumb sucking, or temper tantrums).
- The child may have several instances where they have attempted to run away.
- The child may have attempted suicide.
In addition, you may observe strangeness in the relationship between the parent and the child.
- The parent may constantly belittle or berate the child. This causes the child to see themselves in a way consistent with what the caregiver tells them and limits the child’s potential.
- There may seem to be no attachment between the child and the parent.
- The parent may appear unconcerned with the child. The parent may refuse to consider offers of help of some of the child’s problems.
- The parent may overtly and outwardly reject the child in front of other people.
Signs that a child is physically abused
Physical child abuse involves the parent striking, hitting, kicking, or in any other manner physically injuring the child. Although the act of physical abuse itself may rarely be seen, there are plenty of warning signs that a child is being physically abused.
- The child may have frequent injuries or unexplained bruises, cuts, bites, broken bones, or black eyes.
- They child may have fading bruises or other marks noticeable after a child returns from a absence from school.
- The child may appear watchful, on alert, or always looking for something to happen to them. They may be particularly wary of other adults.
- They may seem frightened of their parents and loudly protest when it’s time to go home.
- They may have visible injuries that form a distinct pattern such as a belt or hand imprint.
- The child my shy away from touch or flinch violently at sudden movements.
- The child may wear inappropriate clothing intended to cover up injuries. For instance, they may wear a long-sheaved shirt on a hot day.
The parent may provide clues that they are physically abusing the child too.
- The parent my offer unconventional, conflicting, or unconvincing explanations for the child’s injuries.
- They may describe the child in negative ways such as “bad”, or “evil”.
- You may see them dish out very harsh discipline of the child.
- The abuser may have a history of being abused themselves.
Signs that a child is being sexually abused
Sexual abuse victims provide many signs. For information on sexual abuse signs may be found here.
- The child may have trouble walking or sitting.
- The child may display unusual knowledge of sexual acts inappropriate for their age.
- The child may make a great effort to avoid a specific person or place.
- The child may suffer physical symptoms such as a sexually transmitted disease, urinal infection, genital pain or bleeding.
- The child may go to great lengths to avoid taking their clothes off in front of other children.
- The child may have fearful behavior such as bad dreams, depression, or other unusual fears.
- The child may show fear of sleeping alone.
- The child may have crying spells, be hyperactive, show excessive nervousness, have memory problems, or talk about violent fantasies.
Parents who sexually abuse children can provide plenty of warning signs to.
- The caregiver may be unduly protective of the child or severely limit the child’s contact with other children their age.
- The parent may be secretive or isolated.
- The parent may demonstrate jealousy or controlling behavior with other children in the household.
In addition to what people normally think of with regards to child sexual abuse, you must be cognitive of online sexual abuse which has become quite common with the advent of the Internet and social networking. Online sexual abuse can easily turn into physical sexual abuse. Warning signs of online sexual abuse include:
- The child spends large amounts of time online, particularly at night.
- You find pornography on the child’s computer.
- The child receives phone calls from men that you do not know. You might find the child making phone calls, especially long distance calls, to phone numbers that you do not recognize.
- The child may receive gifts or packages from someone that you do not know.
- Your child quickly turns off the computer monitor when you walk into the room.
- The child may become withdrawn from the family.
- The child may use an online account that belongs to someone else or has inaccurate information (such as a fake name or older age).
Signs of neglect
Neglect is also a form of child abuse and in severe cases, may result in death of the child. Regardless of the parents social stature, neglect can be corrected with supplemental, often free, resources. Signs of child neglect include:
- The child may wear clothes that are ill fitting or inappropriate for the weather. For instance, the child may wear shorts during winter.
- The child’s hygiene may be consistently bad. For instance, their hair may always be unwashed and unkempt or they may have severe body odor.
- You may notice untreated wounds or illness.
- The child may be frequently unsupervised or left alone in unsafe environments.
- The child may be frequently late or missing from school.
- The child may fail to gain weight. This is particularly noticeable with infants.
- The child may have a voracious appetite at all times. You may catch the child stealing food.
- The child may openly tell you that no one is home to offer care or assistance.
Parents who neglect their children may also demonstrate recognizable behaviors.
- The parent may appear indifferent or uncaring towards the child.
- The parent may seem apathetic, uncaring, or depressed.
- The parent abuses or uses alcohol or drugs.
In general, any time a child shows sudden changes in behavior or performance in school, there’s a indication that they may be abused. Children that seem unduly fearful, watchful as if something bad is about to happen, or seem to not want to go home typically have a good reason for those fears.
A parent who shows little concern for their child or blames the child for problems are quite likely abusive to the child. If a parent sees a child as worthless or entirely bad, chances are high that they are abusing the child too.
And the relationship between the child and the parent is a dead giveaway that something is amiss. Parents and children who rarely look at each other or who openly state that they do not like each other are in a relationship that is almost certainly abusive.