Childhood is a time of playfulness, tumbling, climbing and adventures. And as such all children are liable to get scratches, bruises, bumps and cuts from time-to-time. It is therefore sometimes difficult to tell the difference between injuries suffered as part of a quite normal childhood, and those caused by physical abuse.
One of the best ways to help children is learning to recognise the signs of abuse. While these signs often take the form of physical injuries, behavioural and personality indicators are also important when identifying abuse. The parent or other adult caregiver may also display significant indicators that point towards the presence of child abuse.
The diagnosis of child abuse will rely not only on indicators but also on a family history and a social, educational and health assessment of the child. The list given below is therefore not, in itself, a comprehensive tool for recognising child abuse but is provided as guidance only.
It is important to recognise that the different types of abuse often occur simultaneously. For instance where a child is physically abused, they often suffer emotional abuse as well. If you perceive a combination or repetition of any of the signs of child abuse then please contact the relevant social services office immediately. You can find their details on the Useful Contacts Page
Physical abuse may result in one or more of the symptoms described below. Aside from direct physical contact, physical abuse can also be caused when a parent or caregiver feigns the symptoms of, or deliberately causes ill health to a child in their care.
Signs of physical abuse can include:
Sexual abuse involves forcing or enticing a child or young person to take part in sexual activities, whether or not the child is aware of what is happening. The activities may involve physical contact, including penetrative or non-penetrative acts. They may also include non-contact activities, such as involving the children in looking at, or in the production of, pornographic material or watching sexual activities or encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways.
Signs of sexual abuse displayed by children can include:
Emotional abuse is the persistent emotional ill-treatment of a child such as to cause severe and persistent adverse effects on the child's development. It may involve conveying to children that they are worthless or unloved, inadequate, undervalued or a disappointment. It may feature inappropriate expectations being imposed on children, relative to their actual development or age.
Signs of Emotional Abuse can include:
Neglect is the persistent failure to meet a child's basic physical and/or psychological needs. This is likely to result in the serious impairment of the child's health or development.
Signs of can neglect include:
The Parent or Other Adult Caregiver: