Any injury inflicted on a child by a caregiver or during discipline is considered child abuse. While the caregiver is normally an adult, most often the child’s mother, it can also be teenagers who are caring for the youngster, such as a babysitter or a camp counselor.
It is critical to recognize that child abuse must result in injury, whether physical or emotional, and whether visible or not. While most child care professionals advise against using corporal punishment because of the potential of mental harm and inadvertent physical injury, spanking a kid does not automatically constitute child abuse unless the child is injured from it.
Every year, many children around the world are abused, hurting children of various educational and financial backgrounds, nationalities, cultures, and religions. In the United States, the most common kind of child maltreatment is being left at home alone without adult supervision, often known as supervision neglect.
Around 75% of all child-abuse referrals to child welfare authorities are due to some sort of neglect. Physical violence, physical neglect, emotional abuse, and sexual assault with physical touch are all typical forms of child abuse.
Signs That a Child is Being Abused
Children who are victims of abuse often experience symptoms of stress in reaction to the abuse, in addition to symptoms that are specific to the kind of abuse they have suffered. The signs and symptoms of abuse often vary according to the age and developmental stage of the child.
It is also important to understand that victims of child abuse suffer abuse in more than one way, so the child may demonstrate symptoms consistent with more than one kind of maltreatment.
Examples of less specific signs and symptoms of child abuse include
- a tendency to either avoid, overly please or ingratiate themselves to the abuser;
- poor school performance;
- irritability/quickness to anger;
- crying more often and/or easily;
- anxiety or panic;
- frequent complaints of physical symptoms, like headaches and stomach aches;
- young kids may act younger than their age or than they had previously (regress);
- spending more time alone, away from friends and family;
- becoming more “clingy” and more dependent on certain relationships;
- expressing thoughts about hurting him or herself or others;
- more risk-taking behaviors and/or showing less concern for their own safety.
Examples of risk-taking behaviors in children include unsafe play, like climbing excessively high or running in the street.
More potentially specific signs and symptoms of abuse may include the following:
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.
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.
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.
A sexually abused child 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.
They may also respond opposite to that by avoiding bathing, toileting, examination by a professional, or otherwise having to take off their clothes. Medically, sexually abused children may develop genital injuries or sexually transmitted diseases.