Child abuse and neglect continues to be a widespread problem that can occur in any cultural, ethnic, and economic group. Child abuse can be physical, emotional, verbal, or sexual. Abuse can result in serious physical, psychological, and emotional injury to the child. Unfortunately, some child that are physically abused may even die as a result of the abuse.
Child abuse is more than bruises, scratches, and broken bones. While physical abuse might be the most visible, other types of abuse, such as emotional abuse and neglect, also leave deep, lasting scars. The earlier abused children get help, the greater chance they have to heal and break the cycle—rather than perpetuate it. By learning about common signs of abuse and what you can do to intervene, you can make a huge impact in a child’s life.
Common warning signs of child abuse:
1) Change of behavior in a child not directly related to normal daily activities, school, home, friends, etc. Child exhibit behaviors of overly passive, unusually compliant, aggressive, avoidant, or aggressive behavior.
2) Excessively withdrawn, fearful, or anxious about doing something wrong. Unusually attached to caregiver, fearful, or anxious at the anticipation of separation.
3) behavior appears overly provocative or possess sexual knowledge exceeding developmental age.
4) Regressed behavior which can include thumb-sucking, soiling of clothing and bedding, age inappropriate behaviors, i.e., throwing tantrums (which is something the child had previously outgrown).
5) unusual and or unexplained bruising
6) Avoid touch, behaves in a manner that exhibits fear, or behaves sexually inappropriate with others.
7) Trouble sitting or walking, unknown rashes, redness, or irriation in private areas.
8) Frequently absent from school
9) Decline in academic performance.
10) Wears clothing not appropriate for the weather
11) Runs away from home or attempts to avoid going home.
Risk factors for child abuse and neglect:
- Domestic Violence
- Lack of or insufficient parenting skills
- Undiagnosed or untreated mental illness
- Alcohol or substance addiction
- Pronounced stressors or lack of adequate support
- Financial problems
Like many things in life, child abuse is preventable with effective identification of contributing factors, issues that may be interfering with or preventing effective parenting, addictions, emotional/psychological challenges, etc. When it comes to children, if there is even the slightest suspicion of abuse or neglect it is important to report it. It is best to err on the side of caution rather than waiting for what we think is “concrete” proof. Individuals that abuse children typically engage in behaviors that make it difficult for children to report the abuse (intimidation, threats, and fear). Therefore, it is important to be able to recognize the signs of abuse and neglect.