Top 10 Signs of Child Abuse to Watch Out For

sad child photoWhile there is no overlooking the fact that abuse is severely damaging to children, physically and emotionally, it also affects the health of a nation because in most cases its definition is blurred and the signs of child abuse and neglect are quite difficult to identify.

A child who is being abused may feel guilty, ashamed or even confused. He or she may be afraid to tell anyone of the abuse, especially if the abuser is a parent, a relative or a family friend. Actually, the child may have an apparent fear of parents, adults, caregivers or family friends. It’s therefore vital to watch out for red flags.

Child abuse facts

  1.  About 40 million children worldwide suffer abuse each year, with more than 1,500 children dying of abuse in the U.S only.
  2. Survivors of child abuse are at a greater risk for physical, emotional, work, and emotional problems throughout their childhood and adulthood.
  3. Common forms of child abuse include physical assault, neglect, emotional abuse and sexual assault.
  4. Child abuse signs and symptoms vary according to the child’s developmental stage and age.
  5. Victims of less than 1 year old have the greatest rate of child abuse with more than 2 % of children being victims of abuse.
  6. Girls are more victimized compared to boys.
  7. According to a recent survey, approximately 78% of child abuse victims suffered neglect, 18 % physical abuse and 9 % sexual abuse.

The sooner child abuse is identified, the easier it is to prevent the damage that will only worsen with time. Below are the common signs of child abuse.

 Signs of Child Abuse

  1.  Unexplained injuries
  2. Visible signs of physical abuse include unexplained bruises and burns in the shape of objects. Once you ask the child about the bruises, she/he may give unconvincing explanations.
  3. Returning to earlier behaviors.  Abused children may display behaviors shown at earlier ages, such as bed-wetting, thumb-sucking, fear of darkness or strangers. Some children may even experience memory problems or loss of acquired language.
  4. Changes in behavior.  Physical, sexual or emotional abuse may lead to changes in the child’s behavior. The affected children often appear withdrawn, depressed, anxious or aggressive.
  5. Change in eating.  Fear, anxiety, and stress from abused can lead to eating disorders. This results in weight gain or weight loss.
  6. Fear of going home.  Abused children may express fear or anxiety about leaving school or about going to certain places with the abuser.
  7. Sleeping problems.  Abuse may lead to nightmares or difficulty falling asleep. Due to this, the child appears tired and fatigued.
  8. Lack of personal care or hygiene.  Abused and neglected children mostly appear uncared for. The child may consistently wear dirty clothes, have severe body odor or sometimes lack sufficient clothing for the weather.
  9. Changes in school performance.  An abused child may have a difficult time concentrating in school or sometimes have excessive absence, sometimes due to the abuser trying to hide the child’s injuries from the authorities.
  10. Inappropriate sexual behavior.  When a child is sexually abused, he/she may exhibit overly sexualized behavior or sometimes use explicit sexual language.
  11. Risk-taking behaviors.  Abused children may engage in high-risk activities like carrying a weapon and using of drugs and alcohol.



National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS)

Modern Tots

US Department of Health and Human Services


National Council on Child Abuse and Family Violence (NCCAFV)