Child abuse is any injury intentionally inflicted on a child by a caregiver or during discipline. While the caregiver is usually an adult, most often the mother of the
child, it can also include teenagers who are in the caregiving role, like a babysitter or a camp counselor. It is important to understand that child abuse must involve
injury, whether physical or emotional, visible or not immediately visible. So while most child care professionals (for example, psychiatrists, psychologists,
pediatricians, and teachers) do not recommend the use of corporal punishment due to the risk of emotional damage and accidental physical injury, spanking a child does
not automatically constitute child abuse unless the child sustains some kind of injury.
Many children worldwide suffer abuse every year, affecting all educational and socioeconomic levels, ethnicities, cultures, and religions. The most common form of
child abuse in the United States is being left at home alone without adult supervision, also called supervision neglect. All forms of neglect account for about 75% of
the child-abuse reports made to child welfare authorities. Other common forms of child abuse include physical assault, physical neglect, emotional abuse, and sexual
assault that involves physical contact.
Child abuse has far-reaching negative effects on its victims and on society. Survivors of child maltreatment are at greater risk for physical, emotional, work, and
relationship problems throughout childhood and into adulthood.
Child abuse is when a caregiver either fails to provide appropriate care (neglect), purposefully inflicts harm, or harms a child while disciplining him or her.
Survivors of child maltreatment are at greater risk for physical, emotional, work, and relationship problems throughout childhood and into adulthood. Common forms of
child abuse include neglect, physical assault, emotional abuse, and sexual assault. Child abuse risk factors include issues that involve the victim, family,
perpetrator, and community. Victims of child abuse often experience stress in reaction to the abuse as well as symptoms related to the kind of abuse they endured.
Child abuse symptoms and signs vary according to the child’s developmental stage and age. The treatment for child abuse involves first securing the safety of the child
from further abuse and addressing any physical injuries from which the child may be suffering. Health care professionals then assess and address the emotional needs of
the child. There are many ways to prevent child abuse, and every state in the U.S. has child-abuse-reporting hotlines.
What are the different types of child abuse?
The most common types of child maltreatment are neglect, physical, emotional, and sexual abuse:
Neglect is the failure of the child’s caretaker to provide adequate care for the child. Examples of this form of child maltreatment include a lack of supplying
adequate food, shelter, season-appropriate clothing, supervision, medical or mental health care, or a lack of providing appropriate emotional comfort. Supervision
neglect is the most common form of child neglect. Physical abuse involves a caretaker inflicting physical injury on a child through assault. That includes corporal
punishment that results in physical injuries, like bruises, scratches, welts, or broken bones.
Emotional abuse involves statements by a caretaker that can injure a child’s sense of self-esteem. Examples of emotional abuse include calling the child negative
names, cursing at, or otherwise insulting the child. Sexual abuse involves exposing the child to inappropriate sexual content, behavior, or contact. That can include
allowing the child to see pornography or sexual acts or a caretaker having sexual contact with the child. Neglect, physical, and sexual abuse are the types of child
abuse that usually result in reporting to and intervention by the authorities.
What are risk factors for child abuse?
The risk factors for child abuse include issues that pertain to the victim, perpetrator, family, and community situations. Children under 4 years of age and those with
special physical, developmental, or mental health needs are at higher risk for being victims of maltreatment. Younger caregivers who have had child abuse, mental
health, or drug problems in their family of origin are more at risk for abusing children. Also, adults who have trouble understanding the needs of children and
appropriate parenting skills, as well as those who are single parents, of low socioeconomic status, or have transient other adult caregivers (like the parent’s friend,
boyfriend, or girlfriend) in the home are also more at risk of becoming child abusers.
Family risk factors for child maltreatment include social isolation, fragmentation, or parents under stress, engaging in domestic violence, or the presence of poor
parent-child relationships. Community issues that increase the likelihood that child abuse occurs include low community socioeconomic status, high unemployment rates,
high incidence of community violence, high availability of alcohol or other drugs (for example, alcohol through liquor stores or bars), and poor community social