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Recognizing Signs and Symptoms of Child Abuse and Neglect

 Recognizing Signs and Symptoms of Child Abuse and Neglect

Child Welfare Information Gateway

The first step in helping abused or neglected children is learning to recognize the signs of child abuse and neglect. The presence of a single sign does not prove child abuse is occurring in a family; however, when these signs appear repeatedly or in combination you should take a closer look at the situation and consider the possibility of child abuse.

If you do suspect a child is being harmed, reporting your suspicions may protect the child and get help for the family. Contact your local child protective services agency or police department. For more information about where and how to file a report, call the Childhelp® National Child Abuse Hotline (1.800.4.A.CHILD).

Recognizing Child Abuse

The following signs may signal the presence of child abuse or neglect.

The Child:

  • Shows sudden changes in behavior or school performance.
  • Has not received help for physical or medical problems brought to the parents’ attention.
  • Has learning problems (or difficulty concentrating) that cannot be attributed to specific physical or psychological causes.
  • Is always watchful, as though preparing for something bad to happen.
  • Lacks adult supervision.
  • Is overly compliant, passive, or withdrawn.
  • Comes to school or other activities early, stays late, and does not want to go home.

The Parent:

  • Shows little concern for the child.
  • Denies the existence of—or blames the child for—the child’s problems in school or at home.
  • Asks teachers or other caretakers to use harsh physical discipline if the child misbehaves.
  • Sees the child as entirely bad, worthless, or burdensome.
  • Demands a level of physical or academic performance the child cannot achieve.
  • Looks primarily to the child for care, attention, and satisfaction of emotional needs.

The Parent and Child:

  • Rarely touch or look at each other.
  • Consider their relationship entirely negative.
  • State that they do not like each other.

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    about 6 years ago


    I only wish more people would read these type of articles. I volunteer for a fire dept. and we have worked 1- 9 month old code, due to abuse and another one was a 2 year old shaken baby in foster care that died the second time he went to the hospital. It shook my faith in the babysitters, foster care people though I also know so much of this goes on that we might never know about if one does not step up to the plate and report this.

  • Photo_user_blank_big

    Account Removed

    about 6 years ago

    No one ever wins when a child is sexually or physically abused. If the State removes the child and places him/her in foster, the child suffers from attachment issues. If you leave the child in the home, the child suffers further abuse. Although foster care is the safest avenue to take, its not the answer. These children require years of therapy, and may still not confront the abuse they've suffered until they reach adulthood. I've worked 15 years in child protective services and have had hundreds of cases. I can only think of a handful of cases that were successful while they were in foster care. I suppose those clients that do turn out okay, is what makes my job satisfying. What this country needs is stiffer penalties for perpetrators. Far too many perps get off with nothing more than a slap on the wrist, while the victim deals with the emotional impact for years. I apologize for being so negative, and rambling on. Sometimes it's good to vent to people who don't know you personally.

  • Btterfly008_max50


    over 6 years ago


    Sad but true

  • Photo_user_blank_big


    over 6 years ago


    great article

  • Smpic4_max50


    about 7 years ago


    very important information
    you could save a child's life
    report suspected abuse

  • Eulaonsteps_max50


    about 7 years ago


    This is a very interesting article. I used to teach Head Start and would frequently see these signs of neglect in the children.

  • Nana_and_grandkids_minus_noah_max50


    about 7 years ago


    this was a very good article

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