Recognizing Child Abuse and Neglect

Physical Abuse

Infliction of physical injury or allowing another to do so.

Physical Indicators: Behavioral Indicators:
  • Unexplained bruises
  • Unexplained welts
  • Unexplained burns
  • Unexplained lumps
  • Unexplained bumps
  • Unexplained fractures
  • Unexplained lacerations or abrasions
  • Hemorrhages
  • Burns by cigarettes
  • Burns by immersion
  • Dental/oral injuries
  • Verbally reports abuse
  • Too eager to please
  • Depression
  • Low self-esteem
  • Behavioral extremes
  • Role reversal
  • Developmental lags
  • Appears frightened of caretaker
  • Apprehensive children cry
  • Exaggerated startle response
  • School absenteeism¬†

Behavioral Indicators of Caretaker: Harsh disciplinarian, describes child in a consistently negative manner, defensive, conceals or misleads about child’s injuries, substance abuser.


Chronic failure to meet basic needs of a child for food, clothing, shelter, medical care, education or supervision.

Physical Indicators: Behavioral Indicators:
  • Flat, bald spots on infant’s head
  • Dirty, smelly, torn, dirty or
  • inappropriate clothing for the weather
  • Developmental lags
  • Underweight
  • Listless
  • Begging/stealing food
  • Constant fatigue
  • Alcohol or drug use
  • Reports being left alone

Behavioral Indicators of Caretaker: Substance abuser, chaotic life style, apathetic, expects too much of child.

Sexual Abuse:

Utilization of a child for sexual gratification by an adult or older child in a position of power, or permitting another person to do so.

Physical Indicators: Behavioral Indicators:
  • Any venereal disease
  • Bruised/dilated genitals or rectum
  • Pregnancy under 16 years of age
  • Difficulty/pain in walking or sitting
  • Foreign matter in bladder, rectum or urethra
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Torn, stained or bloody underclothing
  • Recurrent urinary tract infections
  • Aggressive, overt sexual behavior
  • Drawing pictures of people with genitals or vagina
  • Cruelty to animals without physiological basis
  • Pre-mature knowledge of explicit sexual acts
  • Sleep disorders
  • Taking frequent baths
  • Starting fires
  • Self-inflicted injuries
  • Expresses fear of a particular person or place
  • Reports sexual abuse

Emotional Maltreatment:

Emotional Neglect – Chronic failure by the caretaker to provide support and affection necessary to develop a sound and healthy personality.

Emotional Abuse – Chronic attitude or acts of a caretaker which are detrimental to the child’s development of a sound and healthy personality.

Behavioral Indicators:

  • Low self esteem
  • Difficulty forming positive relationships
  • Eating disorders
  • Elimination problems
  • Speech disorders
  • Inability to trust
  • Sleep problems
  • Sadistic, masochistic
  • Apathetic
  • Suicidal
  • Withdrawal
  • Anxiety, fear
  • Developmental lags
  • Reports emotional maltreatment

Behavioral Indicators of Caretaker:  Rejecting, ignoring, terrorizing, isolating, corrupting.

(Information courtesy of Prevent Child Abuse Indiana)