Definition of Child Abuse and Neglect

  • Child abuse is any act that endangers a child’s physical or emotional health and development.
  • Child abuse and neglect often take place in the home. The child often knows the abuser well – a parent, relative, babysitter, or friend of the family.
  • Child abuse and neglect crosses all ethnic, racial, social, and economic lines.
  • There are four types of child maltreatment:
    • Neglect is failure to provide for a child’s basic needs including physical, educational, and emotional needs.
    • Physical abuse is physical injury as a result of hitting, kicking, shaking, burning, or otherwise harming a child.
    • Sexual abuse may include indecent exposure, fondling, rape, or commercial exploitation through prostitution or the production of pornographic materials.
    • Emotional abuse is any pattern of behavior that impairs a child’s emotional development or sense of self-worth, including constant criticism, threats, and rejection.

Risk Factors for Child Abuse and Neglect

For the Parent/Caregiver

  • Stress and distress
  • Mental health conditions
  • Lack of understanding of children’s needs, child development, and parenting skills
  • History of child abuse in family of origin
  • Substance abuse
  • Young, single, and non-biological parents
  • Thoughts and emotions supporting maltreatment behaviors

For the Family

  • Social isolation
  • Poverty and other socioeconomic disadvantage such as unemployment or lack of education
  • Family disorganization, dissolution, and violence (including intimate partner violence)
  • Poor parent-child relationships and negative interactions

For the Community

  • Community violence — leading to high incidents of trauma, strain, and fear for families