Child Abuse (Encyclopedia)

Child abuse and neglect are tragic issues that are quite difficult to deal with, and it's hard deciding whether or not to get involved when you suspect something bad may be going on.


Child abuse itself may be defined as an act, or a failure to act, that results in physical, mental, or emotional harm to a child. Typical forms of child abuse include:

Physical abuse

Inflicting injury upon a child that crosses the line of reasonable corporal punishment.

Emotional abuse

Verbal or mental abuse including degrading language to a child that destroys self esteem and/or bizarre punishment such as locking a child in a dark closet or tying them to a chair, etc.

Sexual abuse

Inappropriate sexual behavior with or touching of a child's genitalia. Exposure of a child to pornography.


Failure to provide for a child's physical, mental and emotional needs.

Warning Signs

A child who is suffering from some form of abuse or neglect may present some tell-tale warning signs that send up red flags to teachers, care-givers and other concerned adults.

Repetitive signs of injury

Such as bruises, burns, cuts, broken bones or sprains. Any child may receive some injuries naturally in the course of normal play, but constant injuries along with the claims of just being clumsy should be cause for justified concern.

Depression and/or withdrawal from social behavior

These can also be a sign that some form of abuse may be present.

Fear of adults or hostile behavior

These can indicate a child's feeling the need to protect her/himself from harm, and is typical of children who have learned to mistrust adult companions.

Eating disorders

These may be the outward reflection of the way a child is internalizing an unbearable situation.

Drug and alcohol abuse

These may be a child's form of escaping a bad situation.

Overt sexual behavior displayed by a child, bed wetting, fear of a particular adult

These may be signs of sexual abuse.

An unwashed child, dirty clothing, extreme hunger and apparent lack of adult supervision

On a regular basis, these may indicate that general neglect of the child's needs is ongoing.

There are many more warning signs for all types of abuse, but these listed are among the most common.

How To Report Suspected Child Abuse And Neglect

If you are convinced that a child you know is a victim of abuse and/or neglect, there is a way to initiate help. Childhelp USA National Child Abuse Hotline (1-800-4-A-Child or 1-800-422-4453) is available to listen to your concerns and help make the determination if an investigation is warranted.

This service is available nationally, regardless of individual state laws. If it is determined that your concerns seem valid enough to require reporting, you will be given the appropriate number to contact in your area.

Many people are reluctant to report suspected abuse because they fear repercussions on themselves, or worsening the situation for the child involved. Rest assured that:

  • In most states you will not be required to identify yourself when reporting suspected child abuse or neglect.
  • The suspected child abuser cannot find out who reported them.
  • A child would only be removed from the home if a careful investigation confirmed suspected abuse, and removal was considered necessary for the child's immediate protection.

Child abuse/neglect is a tragedy for all concerned, but there are ways to get help if you believe a child you know is suffering.