Recognizing Child Abuse

Children who are abused may or may not show physical or behavioral signs of being maltreated. In some instances, there may be an unusual pattern or location of physical injuries that suggests abuse. In other cases, there may be no physical indicators, but the child’s behavior has changed in a questionable and observable way. Educate yourself and others about some of the obvious and less obvious signs of possible child abuse.

Physical Signs

  • Injuries such as bruises, burns, welts, or broken bones that are unexplained or have implausible explanations
  • Missing hair
  • Poor hygiene
  • Injuries or redness around the genitals
  • Multiple injuries at different stages of healing
  • Improperly treated injury or medical condition
  • Slowed physical development
  • Unattended medical or dental needs
  • Consistent hunger
  • Inappropriate clothing for weather conditions
  • Speech delay
  • Frequent tardiness or absence from school

Behavioral Signs

  • Declining school performance or involvement
  • Lack of concentration
  • Difficulty making and keeping friends
  • Signs of persistent unhappiness or depression
  • Withdrawn from others
  • Displaying angry or aggressive behavior
  • Destruction of property
  • Hurting themselves or others
  • Low self-esteem
  • Problems expressing feelings
  • Fatigue, listlessness, or regularly falling asleep in class
  • Constantly seeking attention or approval
  • Sleeping problems or insomnia
  • Reluctance to go home
  • Lack of parental interest or participation
  • Begging or stealing food
  • Unusual fears
  • Sexualized behaviors
  • Unusual knowledge of sex for the child’s age or developmental stage