Recognizing Abuse & Neglect

Indicators of Child Abuse

The following list of indicators may be used as a guide to help determine if there is a suspicion of child abuse or neglect. These indicators can also exist in situations where a child is NOT abused or neglected; they are only suggestive of abuse or neglect. The presence of any one or more of these indicators may have an entirely appropriate or unrelated explanation.

INDICATORS OF PHYSICAL ABUSE – CHILD

  • Unexplained bruises, welts, human bite marks, bald spots
  • Numerous bruises in various stages of healing
  • Marks on many surfaces of the body
  • Unexplained burns, especially cigarette or immersion burns
  • Withdrawal or aggression – behavioral extremes
  • Uncomfortable with physical contact
  • Afraid to go home
  • Dressed inappropriately for the weather
  • Cringes when approached by an adult (fears getting hit)
  • Overreacts to accidents such as spilling milk
  • Does not want to talk about home life
  • Extreme attachment to parents
  • Extreme attentiveness to needs of parents

INDICATORS OF PHYSICAL ABUSE – PARENT

  • Contradictory statements about child's injury
  • Excessive anxiety about child's behavior
  • Labels child as a “problem”
  • Says child makes up stories and that child should not be believed
  • Verbally aggressive toward child

INDICATORS OF SEXUAL ABUSE – CHILD

  • Pain or itching in genital area
  • Bruises or bleeding in external genitalia
  • Frequent urinary or yeast infections
  • Torn, stained or bloody underclothing
  • Venereal disease
  • A child's report or self-disclosure
  • Sexual knowledge beyond what is natural for a child
  • Preoccupation with their body
  • Acting out sexual behavior
  • Withdrawal, chronic depression
  • Self-devaluation and lack of confidence
  • Problems with bedtime or afraid to go to bed
  • Bedwetting – especially if it begins in a child who has been dry

INDICATORS OF SEXUAL ABUSE – PARENT

  • Poor sexual relationship between parents
  • Frequent changes of adults in household
  • Lack of supervision of child
  • Parent relates to child on adult level
  • Parent is jealous of child's relationship with others
  • Parent is overly possessive of child

INDICATORS OF NEGLECT OR PSYCHOLOGICAL ABUSE – CHILD

  • Unattended medical needs
  • Consistent lack of supervision
  • Persistent hunger, poor hygiene or inappropriate dress
  • Distended stomach or emaciated body
  • Delayed physical development
  • Substance abuse
  • Regularly displays fatigue or listlessness
  • Steals food or begs
  • Habit disorders (sucking, rocking, etc.)
  • Passive or aggressive behavior extremes
  • Neurotic traits such as sleep disorders or inhibition of play

INDICATORS OF NEGLECT OR PSYCHOLOGICAL ABUSE – PARENT

  • Disinterest in or rejection of child
  • Deserting or avoiding child
  • Threatening child, yelling, and/or screaming at child
  • Ignoring medical problems of child
  • Constant criticism of child, making negative comparison with other children
  • Embarrassing children in public or making child feel ashamed or guilty
  • Isolating child from society or normal friendships
  • Placing child in dangerous situations
  • Blaming child for situations not within child’s control
  • Failing to meet child's physical/emotional needs

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