Warning Signs for Child Abuse or Neglect

There are often certain recognizable physical and behavioral indicators of child abuse or neglect. The following signs, by themselves, may not be conclusive evidence of a problem, but serve as indicators of the possibility that a problem exists.

Signs of Physical Abuse

  • Bruising, welts or burns that cannot be sufficiently explained; particularly bruises on the face, lips, and mouth of infants or on several surface planes at the same time
  • Withdrawn, fearful or extreme behavior
  • Clusters of bruises, welts or burns, indicating repeated contact with a hand or instrument
  • Burns that are insufficiently explained; for example, cigarette burns
  • Injuries on children where children don't usually get injured (e.g., the torso, back neck buttocks, or thighs)

Signs of Sexual Abuse

  • Difficulty walking or sitting
  • Pain or itching in the genital area
  • Torn, stained or bloody underclothing
  • Frequent complaints of stomachaches or headaches
  • Venereal disease
  • Bruises or bleeding in external genitalia
  • Feeling threatened by physical contact
  • Inappropriate sex play or premature understanding of sex
  • Frequent urinary or yeast infections

Signs of Emotional Injury

  • Speech disorders
  • Inability to play as most children do
  • Sleeping problems
  • Anti-social behavior or behavioral extremes
  • Delays in emotional and intellectual growth

Signs of Neglect

  • Lack of medical or dental care
  • Chronically dirty or unbathed
  • Lack of adequate school attendance
  • Lack of supervision; for example young children left unattended or with other children too young to protect or care for them
  • Lack of proper nutrition
  • Lack of adequate shelter
  • Self-destructive feelings or behavior
  • Alcohol or drug abuse

Each case of child abuse or neglect is individual. The child who has been hurt is always the victim. If you believe a child may be the victim of abuse or neglect, contact the Child-at-Risk Hotline at 800-792-5200.