If you suspect abuse call 1-800-252-5400

Signs and Symptoms


what isSigns of Physical Abuse

  • Unexplained changes in the child’s body or behavior or regression to earlier developmental stages
  • Any injury (bruise, burn, fracture, abdominal or head injury) that cannot be explained
  • Patterned bruises or burns
  • Injuries appearing after the child has not been seen for several days​
  • Watchful and “on alert” behavior, as if the child is waiting for something bad to happen
  • Shying away from touch, flinches at sudden movements, or seems afraid to go home
  • Appears to be afraid of adults
  • Wears clothing inappropriate to the season or weather to cover injuries, i.e. long-sleeved shirts on hot days
  • School failure
  • Frequent headaches or stomachaches with no medical cause

Signs of Emotional Abuse

  • Behavioral changes
  • Speech disorders
  • Substance abuse
  • Developmental delays
  • Lack of attachment to the parent
  • Excessively withdrawn, fearful or anxious about doing something wrong
  • Acts either inappropriately adult (taking care of other children) or inappropriately infantile (rocking, thumb-sucking, tantrums)
  • Extremely passive or aggressive behavior

Signs of Sexual Abuse

  • Extreme sexual behavior that seems inappropriate for the child’s age
  • Sexual acting out on other children
  • Genital pain, itching, swelling or bleeding, as well as a sexually transmitted disease
  • Refusal to change for physical activities (e.g. P.E. class) or refusal to participate in physical activities
  • Depression
  • Runaway
  • Fear of being alone with adults, especially of a particular gender
  • Suicide attempts
  • Trouble walking or sitting
  • Nightmares or bedwetting
  • Sudden changes in appetite 
  • Significant weight change
  • Significant changes in hygiene
  • Fear of a particular person or family member

Signs of Neglect

  • Frequently absent from school
  • Theft of food or money
  • Consistently poor hygiene
  • Lack of appropriate clothing for weather or season
  • Frequently unsupervised, left alone or allowed to play in unsafe situations and environments
  • Lacks needed medical or dental care

More Information:

Child Abuse and Neglect: Recognizing and Preventing Child Abuse

Recognizing Child Abuse and Neglect: Signs and Symptoms

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