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What Is Child Abuse?

Screaming STOP THE ABUSE Found on the netSandra On September - 29 - 2009


Child abuse is when a parent or caregiver, whether through action or failing to act, causes injury, death, emotional harm or risk of serious harm to a child. There are many forms of childmaltreatment, including neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, exploitation, and emotional abuse.

It’s easy to identify some forms of child abuse, but difficult for other forms. The fact that a child experienced harm doesn’t necessarily reveal abuse. CHILDREN ARE ABUSED BY BOTH MEN & WOMEN.

Child abuse, from the standpoint of the victim, is anything that harms you!!

Since there are many forms of abuse and neglect, many governments have developed their own legal definition of what constitutes child maltreatment for the purposes of removing a child and/or prosecuting a criminal charge. In the United States, the Federal Government puts out a full definition of child abuse and neglect and creates a summary of each State definition. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines child maltreatment as any act or series of acts or commission or omission by a parent or other caregiver that results in harm, potential for harm, or threat of harm to a child. Examples of acts of commission include physical, sexual, and psychological abuse. Examples of acts of omission include failure to provide (physical, emotional, medical/dental, or educational neglect) or failure to supervise (inadequate supervision, or exposure to violent environments.)

Types of child abuse


The National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect defines child physical abuse as:  “The physical injury or maltreatment of a child under the age of eighteen by a person who is responsible for the child’s welfare under circumstances which indicate that the child’s health or welfare is harmed or threatened thereby…”
Any non-accidental injury to a child. This includes hitting, kicking, slapping, shaking, burning, pinching, hair pulling, biting, choking, throwing, shoving, whipping, and paddling.


Any sexual act between an adult and child. This includes fondling, penetration, intercourse, exploitation, pornography, exhibitionism, child prostitution, group sex, oral sex, or forced observation of sexual acts. The employment, use, persuasion, inducement, enticement, or coercion of any child to engage in, or assist any other person to engage in, any sexually explicit conduct or simulation of such conduct for the purpose of producing a visual depiction of such conduct.  The rape, and in cases of caretaker or inter-familial relationships, statutory rape, molestation, prostitution, or other form of sexual exploitation of children, or incest with children.

Any attitude or behavior which interferes with a child’s mental health or social development. This includes yelling, screaming, name-calling, shaming, negative comparisons to others, telling them they are “bad, no good, worthless” or “a mistake”. lack of supervision, inappropriate housing or shelter, inadequate provision of food, inappropriate clothing for season or weather, abandonment, denial of medical care, and inadequate hygiene.

It also includes the failure to provide the affection and support necessary for the development of a child’s emotional, social, physical and intellectual well-being. This includes ignoring, lack of appropriate physical affection (hugs), not saying “I love you”, withdrawal of attention, lack of praise, and lack of positive reinforcement.


Child neglect is the failure to provide for the child’s basic needs.
Neglect can be physical, educational, or emotional.
Physical neglect includes refusal of or delay in seeking health care, abandonment, expulsion from the home or refusal to allow a runaway to return home, and inadequate supervision.  Educational neglect includes the allowance of chronic truancy, failure to enroll a child of mandatory school age in school, and failure to attend to a special educational need.  Emotional neglect includes such actions as marked inattention to the child’s needs for affection, refusal of or failure to provide needed psychological care, spouse abuse in the child’s presence, and permission of drug or alcohol use by the child.

1. Unexplained burns, cuts, bruises, or welts
2. Bite marks
3. Anti-social behavior
4. Problems in school
5. Fear of adults

1. Apathy
2. Depression
3. Hostility or stress
4. Lack of concentration
5. Eating disorders

1. Inappropriate interest or knowledge of sexual acts
2. Nightmares and bed wetting
3. Drastic changes in appetite
4. Over-compliance or excessive aggression
5. Fear of a particular person or family member

1. Unsuitable clothing for weather
2. Dirty or unbathed
3. Extreme hunger
4. Apparent lack of supervision

For a more extensive list of the signs of child abuse,
call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline


You Should Know:

No one has the right to abuse you!

  • You don’t deserve to be abused.
  • If you are being abused, you are a victim.
  • It’s not your fault that you are being treated this way.
  • It is wrong that you are suffering this pain, fear or sadness.
  • You are not alone. Other kids suffer abuse, too.
  • Sometimes abusers scare or threaten kids so they won’t tell.
  • There are people who care about you and want to help you.
  • If you are being abused, please tell a safe person – that’s someone you can trust like a teacher, counselor, school nurse, neighbor or parent.
What is Child Abuse and Neglect?
Series Title: Factsheets
Author(s): Child Welfare Information Gateway
Availability: View
Download (PDF – 228KB)
Year Published: 2008 – 4 pages
This fact sheet explains how child maltreatment is defined in federal and state laws. Distinctions between the federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act and state civil and criminal statutes are highlighted. Operational definitions of physical abuse, child neglect, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse also are included.


1 Response

  1. National Child Abuse Month Giveaway | Mommy PR Says:

    […] What Is Child Abuse […]

    Posted on April 1st, 2010 at 5:56 am

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