Signs of Abuse or Neglect

Here are some of the most common signs of abuse. The signs and indicators of abuse and neglect may include, but are not limited to, those that follow. It is important to realize that the presence of any one indicator is not conclusive proof that a child has been abused. In most instances, abused children will exhibit a number of behavioral and physical indicators.

Neglect

Behavioral indicators

  • Pale, listless, unkempt
  • Frequent absences from school
  • Inappropriate clothing for the weather, dirty clothes
  • Engaged in delinquent acts, alcohol/drug abuse
  • Frequently forgets lunch

Physical indicators

  • Poor hygiene
  • Unattended physical problems or medical needs, e.g. dental work, glasses
  • Consistent lack of supervision
  • Unsafe or hazardous living environment

Physical Abuse

Behavioral indicators

  • Cannot recall how injuries occurred or offers an inconsistent explanation
  • Wary of adults
  • May cringe or flinch if touched unexpectedly
  • Infants may display a vacant stare
  • Extremely aggressive or extremely withdrawn
  • Indiscriminately seeks affection
  • Extremely compliant and/or eager to please

Physical indicators

  • Injuries that are not consistent with explanation
  • Presence of several injuries that are in various stages of healing
  • Presence of various injuries over a period of time
  • Facial injuries in infants and preschool children
  • Injuries inconsistent with the child’s age and developmental phase

Emotional Abuse

Behavioral indicators

  • Severe depression
  • Extreme withdrawal or aggressiveness
  • Overly compliant, too well mannered, too neat or clean
  • Extreme attention seeking
  • Displays extreme inhibition in play

Physical indicators

  • Bed wetting that is non-medical in origin
  • Frequent psychosomatic complaints, headaches, nausea, abdominal pains
  • Child fails to thrive

Sexual abuse

Behavioral indicators

  • Age inappropriate play of a sexual nature with toys, self or others
  • Age inappropriate sexually explicit drawing and/or descriptions
  • Bizarre, sophisticated or unusual sexual knowledge
  • Prostitution
  • Seductive behaviors

Physical indicators

  • Unusual or excessive itching in the genital or anal area
  • Torn, stained or bloody underwear (may be observed if the child needs bathroom assistance)
  • Pregnancy
  • Injuries to the genital or anal areas, e.g. bruising, swelling or infection
  • Venereal disease