The Kinds of Behavior That Are Considered Child Abuse

What Kinds of Behavior Are Considered Child Abuse?

There are four major types of child abuse: physical abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse. While individual state’s definitions may vary, standard definitions include the following:

Physical Abuse is characterized by the infliction of physical injury as a result of punching, beating, kicking, biting, burning, shaking or otherwise harming a child. The parent or caretaker may not have intended to hurt the child; rather, the injury may have resulted from out-of-control or excessive discipline or physical punishment.

Neglect is characterized by failure to provide for the child's basic needs. Neglect can involve physical, educational, or emotional deprivation.

For example, physical neglect includes refusal of, or delay in, seeking health care; abandonment; expulsion from the home or refusal to allow a runaway to return home; and inadequate supervision.

Educational neglect includes the allowance of chronic truancy, failure to enroll a child of mandatory school age in school, and failure to attend to a special educational need.

Emotional neglect includes such actions as marked inattention to the child's needs for affection; refusal of or failure to provide needed psychological care; spouse abuse in the child's presence; and permission of drug or alcohol use by the child.

The assessment of child neglect requires consideration of cultural values and standards of care, as well as recognition that the failure to provide the necessities of life may be related to poverty.

Sexual Abuse includes fondling a child's genitals, intercourse, incest, rape, sodomy, exhibitionism, and commercial exploitation through prostitution or the production of pornographic materials. Many experts believe that sexual abuse is the most under-reported form of child maltreatment because of the secrecy or "conspiracy of silence" that so often characterizes these cases.

Emotional Abuse (psychological/verbal abuse/mental injury) includes acts or omissions by the parents or other caregivers that have caused, or could cause, serious behavioral, cognitive, emotional, or mental disorders. In some cases of emotional abuse, the acts of parents or other caregivers alone, without any harm evident in the child's behavior or condition, are sufficient to warrant child protective services (CPS) intervention. For example, the parents/caregivers may use extreme or bizarre forms of punishment, such as confinement of a child in a dark closet. Less severe acts, such as habitual scapegoating, belittling, or rejecting treatment are often difficult to prove and, therefore, CPS may not be able to intervene without evidence of harm to the child.

Although any of the forms of child maltreatment may be found separately, they often occur in combination. Emotional abuse is almost always present when other forms are identified.

Parenting is arguably one of the most rewarding AND one of the most difficult relationships any one of us engages in. The demands of raising a child can incite complete frustration and anger in even the most patient parent. Parents need and deserve asll the help they can get. Seeking the advice and support of a professional therapist can help with any feelings of guilt and upset you may be feeling, as well as offer personally-tailored advice on how to respond constructively and lovingly to your child.