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

Learn more about the laws in your state through RAINN's state database.


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

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