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What are the Four Types of Child Abuse?

Every ten seconds, a child abuse report is filed. It is a scourge among our societies. However, the uncomfortable reality is that most abuse goes unreported. It is not always apparent as physical abuse, which often leaves marks, is just one form of child abuse.

Child abuse has many guises. Understanding the many forms of child abuse can help us detect and prevent it. Here is a breakdown of the four most common types of child abuse. If you suspect a loved one, friend or neighbor is suffering at the hands of an abuser, contact an abuse lawyer to find out how they can help remedy the situation and bring happiness back to an abused child’s life.

Physical Abuse

When we talk of child abuse, we instantly think of physical abuse. This can be aggressive and violent, subjecting the child to horrific beatings and leaving deep bruises and cuts, but it doesn’t have to be. Some physical abusers do not intentionally set out to cause the child harm. Some parents suffering from psychological disorders can cause harm to their child but simultaneously believe they are caring for them.


Signs of physical abuse include bruises, lacerations, and cuts on the child’s skin. A child that flinches when an adult approaches or has an intense fear of their parents could indicate abuse at home.

Sexual Abuse

A child cannot legally give consent to sexual activity of any kind. Any sexual contact with a child is a crime. Sexual abuse of a child can involve rape, molestation, indecent exposure, sexual exploitation or the production and distribution of child pornography.


Most incidents of child sexual abuse are carried out by individuals known to the victim, often within their extended family. Signs that a child may be sexually abused or exploited include; a deeper understanding of sex than is normal in a child, a display of overtly seductive behavior or rejection of their genitalia.


Neglect is another common form of child abuse. Neglect encompasses any deprivation of the child’s basic needs. This could manifest itself as an underfed child, an unwashed child, a lack of appropriate clothing, uninvestigated medical problems, excessive and prolonged school absence or exposure to drug and alcohol use. 


Signs of neglect include repeated absences from school, persistent hunger or dehydration, an unwashed appearance, lack of medical care and severe body odor.

Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse is any form of abuse that has a negative impact on the child’s mental or emotional health. It can result in a child feeling inadequate or worthless and if left unchecked, causes deep issues with self-esteem.

Emotional abuse often takes the form of an adult or parent bullying, intimidating, belittling, ignoring or threatening a child.


Emotional abuse can often be some of the hardest abuse to detect. However, it can manifest itself as extremely compliant or passive behavior, a child’s eagerness to parent other children, or the opposite, a child reverting back to infantile behavior. It can also result in self-harm or symptoms of extreme depression, including suicide attempts.

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