- By sahlhealth
- May 18, 2021
- 75 views
Any intentional harm or mistreatment to a child under 18 years old is considered child abuse. Child abuse takes many forms, which often occur at the same time.
Physical abuse. Physical child abuse occurs when a child is purposely physically injured or put at risk of harm by another person.
Sexual abuse. Sexual child abuse is any sexual activity with a child, such as fondling, oral-genital contact, intercourse, exploitation or exposure to child pornography.
Emotional abuse. Emotional child abuse means injuring a child's self-esteem or emotional well-being. It includes verbal and emotional assault — such as continually belittling or berating a child — as well as isolating, ignoring or rejecting a child.
Medical abuse. Medical child abuse occurs when someone gives false information about illness in a child that requires medical attention, putting the child at risk of injury and unnecessary medical care.
Neglect. Child neglect is a failure to provide adequate food, shelter, affection, supervision, education, or dental or medical care.
In many cases, child abuse is done by someone the child knows and trusts — often a parent or other relative. If you suspect child abuse, report the abuse to the proper authorities.
A child who's being abused may feel guilty, ashamed or confused. He or she may be afraid to tell anyone about the abuse, especially if the abuser is a parent, other relative or family friend. That's why it's vital to watch for red flags, such as:
Withdrawal from friends or usual activities
Changes in behavior — such as aggression, anger, hostility or hyperactivity — or changes in school performance
Depression, anxiety or unusual fears, or a sudden loss of self-confidence
An apparent lack of supervision
Frequent absences from school
Reluctance to leave school activities, as if he or she doesn't want to go home
Attempts at running away
Rebellious or defiant behavior
Self-harm or attempts at suicide
Specific signs and symptoms depend on the type of abuse and can vary. Keep in mind that warning signs are just that — warning signs. The presence of warning signs doesn't necessarily mean that a child is being abused.
Physical abuse signs and symptoms
Unexplained injuries, such as bruises, fractures or burns
Injuries that don't match the given explanation
Sexual abuse signs and symptoms
Sexual behavior or knowledge that's inappropriate for the child's age
Pregnancy or a sexually transmitted infection
Blood in the child's underwear
Statements that he or she was sexually abused
Inappropriate sexual contact with other children
Emotional abuse signs and symptoms
Delayed or inappropriate emotional development
Loss of self-confidence or self-esteem
Social withdrawal or a loss of interest or enthusiasm
Avoidance of certain situations, such as refusing to go to school or ride the bus
Desperately seeks affection
A decrease in school performance or loss of interest in school
Loss of previously acquired developmental skills
Neglect signs and symptoms
Poor growth or weight gain or being overweight
Lack of clothing or supplies to meet physical needs
Taking food or money without permission
Hiding food for later
The poor record of school attendance
Lack of appropriate attention for medical, dental or psychological problems or lack of necessary follow-up care
Sometimes a parent's demeanor or behavior sends red flags about child abuse. Warning signs include a parent who:
Shows little concern for the child
Appears unable to recognize physical or emotional distress in the child
Blames the child for the problems
Consistently belittles or berates the child, and describes the child with negative terms, such as "worthless" or "evil"
Expects the child to provide him or her with attention and care and seems jealous of other family members getting attention from the child
Uses harsh physical discipline
Demands an inappropriate level of physical or academic performance
Severely limits the child's contact with others
Offers conflicting or unconvincing explanations for a child's injuries or no explanation at all
Child health experts condemn the use of violence in any form, but some people still use corporal punishment, such as spanking, as a way to discipline their children. Any corporal punishment may leave emotional scars. Parental behaviors that cause pain, physical injury or emotional trauma — even when done in the name of discipline — could be child abuse.
Treatment can help both children and parents in abuse situations. The first priority is ensuring the safety and protection for children who have been abused. Ongoing treatment focuses on preventing future abuse and reducing the long-term psychological and physical consequences of abuse.
If necessary, help the child seek appropriate medical care. Seek immediate medical attention if a child has signs of an injury or a change in consciousness. Follow-up care with a doctor or other health care provider may be required.
Talking with a mental health professional can:
Help a child who has been abused learn to trust again
Teach a child about normal behavior and relationships
Teach a child conflict management and boost self-esteem
Several different types of therapy may be effective, such as:
Trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy. This type of therapy helps a child who has been abused to better manage distressing feelings and to deal with trauma-related memories. Eventually, the supportive parent who has not abused the child and the child are seen together so the child can tell the parent exactly what happened.
Child-parent psychotherapy. This treatment focuses on improving the parent-child relationship and on building a stronger attachment between the two.
Psychotherapy also can help parents:
Discover the roots of abuse
Learn effective ways to cope with life's inevitable frustrations
Learn healthy parenting strategies
If the child is still in the home, social services may schedule home visits and make sure essential needs, such as food, are available. Children who are placed in foster care because their home situation is too dangerous will often need mental health services and therapies.