Resource Library

Forms of Abuse

Physical abuse

Physical abuse involves any action toward a child that results in a physical injury and is characterized as not being accidental (California Attorney General’s Office, 2000) [1]. Examples of physical abuse include striking a child with the hand or an object, pinching or biting the child, and pulling a child by the hair.

Child neglect

Child neglect has two categories, severe neglect and general neglect. Severe neglect consists of failure to protect the child from severe malnutrition; failure to thrive or willfully causing or permitting the body or health of child to be endangered. General neglect consists of a pattern of failing to provide for a child’s basic needs where no physical injury has occurred (J. Bormann, personal communication, 2009). Physical signs of neglect include poor hygiene, untreated illness and physical injuries. Behavioral indicators such as being tardy to school or being unsupervised may also be signs that a child is experiencing neglect.

Emotional abuse

Emotional abuse consists of abuse as well as emotional deprivation or neglect. Some examples include belittling, shaming, and humiliating a child, calling names and making negative comparisons to others, or constantly telling a child that he or she is “no good.”

Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse involves any sexual act between an adult and child. It can be both physical as well as nonphysical. Examples of physical acts include inappropriate fondling, touching and actual penetration. Nonphysical forms of sexual abuse include a child being forced to undress or exposing a child to adult sexuality.

[1] California Attorney General’s Office. (2000). Child Abuse Prevention Handbook. Northern California, Allied Printing.


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