Child Abuse: An Overview

Signs of Physical Abuse

Child’s Appearance:

Bruises or welts on body or face (especially in various states of healing, in unusual patterns or clusters which would reflect the instrument or in multiple areas of the body); Burns (cigar or cigarette burns, glove or sock-like burns on extremities, doughnut-shaped burns on buttocks, or any burn that shows the shape of the item used, such as an iron); Fractures (spiral fractures of long bones without a history of twisting force as the cause, multiple fractures in various stages of healing, any fracture in a child under two); Internal injuries; Lacerations and abrasions (especially around the mouth, lip, eye, or external genitalia); Human bite marks.2,10

Child’s Behavior:

Agitation; Anger and rage; Anxiety or fears; Apprehensive when other children cry; Avoids social contact or seem withdrawn; Behaves aggressively; Changes in a child’s behavior or school performance; Cries frequently; Demonstrates extremes in behavior; Destroys or throws things; Depression; Drug and alcohol abuse; Fights with other children; Flashbacks – seems in shock; Hard-to-believe stories about how accidents occurred; Immature behaviors such as thumb-sucking or rocking; Lack of interest in surroundings; Lies frequently; Loiters at school or friends – indicates a fear to go home; Nightmares; Passive or withdrawn behavior; Poor self-image; Reports injury by parents; Sadness or other symptoms of depression; School problems or failure; Seems afraid of a parent or other adults; Self-destructive or self-abusive behavior, suicidal thoughts; Startles easily; Stealing; Tired often; Trouble sleeping; Wary of physical contact with adults.2,610,18

Adolescent’s Behavior:

Substance abuse; Risky sexual behaviors; Suicide attempts; Abnormal eating behaviors; Nonsexual, high-risk behaviors (eg, speeding, dare-devil sports).2

Caretaker’s Behavior:

Uses harsh discipline inappropriate to child’s age, transgression, and condition; Has performance expectations which are beyond the age capabilities of the child; Offers illogical, unconvincing, contradictory, or no explanation of child’s injury; Seems unconcerned about child; Significantly misperceives child (e.g., sees child as bad, evil, a monster, etc.); Psychotic or psychopathic; Misuses alcohol or other drugs; Attempts to conceal child’s injury or to protect identity of person responsible.10

Child Abuse Introduction   |   Signs of Child Abuse
Child Abuse Statistics   |   It’s Under Reported
Effects of Child Abuse on Children: Abuse General
Effects of Child Abuse on Children: Child Sexual Abuse
Injuries to Children: Physical and Sexual Abuse
Effects of Child Abuse on Adults: Childhood Abuse
Effects of Child Abuse on Adults: Childhood Sexual Abuse
Definition of Physical Abuse   |   Signs of Physical Abuse
Definition of Sexual Abuse   |   Signs of Sexual Abuse
Definition of Child Neglect   |   Signs of Child Neglect
Definition of Emotional Abuse   |   Signs of Emotional Abuse
Abusers   |   Pedophiles
Child Physical Abuse and Corporal Punishment
Treatment for Child Abuse
Costs to Society
State Child Abuse Laws
Nationwide Crisis Line and Hotline Directory

Referring to this article:
“Child Abuse: An Overview” was written by C. J. Newton, MA, Learning Specialist and published in the Find (formerly Mental Health Journal in April, 2001.

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