Child abuse and neglect is any harm to a child that is not an accident. Child abuse and neglect is also called child maltreatment.
Child abuse and neglect takes many forms.
- Neglect is when parents or caregivers fail to ensure a child's health and well-being. Neglect may result from not providing a child with appropriate shelter, schooling, clothing, medical care, or protection from hazards. A variety of short-term and long-term problems result, such as developmental delays and failure to thrive.
- Physical abuse causes bodily injuries, such as bruises, burns, fractures, cuts, punctures, or organ damage. Physical abuse includes harming a fetus, such as when a pregnant woman has substance use disorder or is purposefully injured. Some states do not consider the use of substances by a pregnant woman to be physical abuse.
- Emotional (psychological) abuse is a repeated pattern of intentional verbal or behavioral actions or lack of actions toward a child that give the message that the child is worthless, flawed, unloved, unwanted, endangered, or only of value to meet someone else's needs. Withholding emotional support, isolating, or terrorizing a child are forms of emotional abuse. Intimate partner (domestic) violence that is witnessed by a child is also considered a form of emotional abuse.
- Sexual abuse is any sexual contact between an adult and a child (or between an older child and a younger child). This includes sexual acts and touching. But it doesn't always involve physical contact. For example, showing pornography to a child is sexual abuse.
Current as of: October 6, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine & John Pope MD - Pediatrics & Andrew Littlefield PhD - Psychology, Behavioral Health