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Child Abuse

Child Abuse: Child abuse takes place when a child is harmed by someone else physically, psychologically, or by acts of neglect.

Physical abuse occurs when a caretaker allows or inflicts non-accidental physical injury that causes a substantial risk to the child's physical well-being and health. Physical injuries may include burns, bruises, welts, broken bones, or internal injuries.

Indicators of Physical Abuse:

  • Nightmares
  • Obvious attempts to hide bruises/injuries
  • Excessive school absenteeism
  • Excessive fear of parents/caretakers

Psychological abuse is a pattern of behavior that retards a child's development and sense of self-worth by conveying to the child that they are worthless, flawed, unloved, or unwanted. Psychological abuse may include insults, constant criticism, harsh demands, threats, and yelling.

Indicators of Psychological Abuse:

  • Dramatic behavioral changes, such as defiance, aggressiveness, compulsively seeking attention/affection.
  • Lack of self-confidence
  • Lags in physical development/failure to thrive
  • Inappropriately adult-like/infantile

Neglect is the leading form of child abuse in the United States and occurs when a caretaker fails to provide for a child's basic needs which include adequate food, clothing, shelter, education, medical care, or safekeeping. As a result of such treatment, the child's physical, mental, or emotional development is impaired.

Indicators of Neglect:

  • Underweight, poor growth pattern
  • Constant lack of supervision
  • Poor hygiene
  • Low academic achievement

Additional Resources

Prevent Child Abuse

Child Welfare Information Gateway

Childhelp USA

Darkness to Light

National Children's Alliance

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children

National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA)

National Youth Violence Prevention Resource Center

Stop It Now: The Campaign to Prevent Child Sexual Abuse


The information in this section is adapted from materials provided by the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault.

National Sexual Assault Hotline | 1.800.656.HOPE(4673) | Free. Confidential. 24/7.

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