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Child Abuse & Neglect Indicators

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The following is a list of indicators of child abuse and/or neglect. The presence of one or more indicators may or may not be a sign that a child is being abused, but it does indicate that the situation should be explored.

If you have suspicions that a child may be a victim of neglect or abuse, please contact the NY State child abuse hotline immediately at (800) 342-3720.  You do not need to know for sure that abuse has occurred in order to make a call, suspicion is all that’s needed. If a child is in immediate danger, call 911 first, then call the child abuse hotline. Your call can make a difference in the life of a child.

Physical Abuse

Physical Indicators
⇨ Unexplained bruises, welts, burns
⇨ Unexplained skeletal injuries
⇨ Unexplained lacerations/abrasions
⇨ Clothing inappropriate for the weather
⇨ School absences that correlate with the appearance of an injury
Child’s Behaviors
⇨ Easily frightened, fearful
⇨ Wary of physical contact
⇨ Poor social relations
⇨ Afraid to go home
⇨ Child reports being abused
⇨ Destructive to self and/or others
⇨ Behavioral extremes: passive/undemanding, aggressive/demanding
Caretaker Characteristics
⇨ Conceals child’s injury
⇨ Does not seem worried about the child
⇨ Believes in severe discipline
⇨ Describes child as bad, different, selfish
⇨ Unrealistic expectations of child
⇨ Low self–esteem
⇨ Abuses alcohol and/or drugs
⇨ Markedly immature
⇨ Maltreated as a child

Sexual Abuse

Physical Indicators
⇨ Bedwetting and fecal soiling
⇨ Torn, stained, or bloody underclothing
⇨ Difficulty walking or sitting
⇨ Abnormalities in genital/anal area
⇨ Loss of appetite/ eating disorders
⇨ Venereal disease (STD)
⇨ Unexplained gagging
⇨ Pregnancy
Child’s Behaviors
⇨ Excessive masturbation
⇨ Clinging, whining, a lot of new fears
⇨ Poor self-esteem/self-image
⇨ Sexual seductiveness or aggressiveness
⇨ Avoidance of bathrooms
⇨ Frequent absences from school
⇨ Persistent rocking
⇨ Head banging /self-mutilation
⇨ Regressive/primitive behaviors
⇨ Aggression or hostile acting out
⇨ Avoidance of specific people/places
⇨ Resistance to formerly enjoyed activities
⇨ Poor peer relations
⇨ Sleep disturbances
⇨ Onset of fears/phobias
⇨ Unusual svoidance of touch
⇨ Poor academic performance
⇨ Extreme compliance
⇨ Constant inattentiveness or anxiety
⇨ Suicide attempts
⇨ Chronic lying
⇨ Drug and/or alcohol use
⇨ Compulsive behaviors
⇨ Indirect disclosure (comments like “I’m afraid to go home tonight”)
⇨ Sudden onset of behavioral problems/delinquency
⇨ Bizarre, sophisticated or unusual sexual knowledge
Caretaker Characteristics
⇨ Possessive and jealous of the victim
⇨ History of sexual abuse in childhood
⇨ Abuse of drugs and/or alcohol
⇨ Socially isolated
⇨ Poor relationship with spouse
⇨ Immature, childlike impulse control
⇨ Overly protective of the child
⇨ Extreme dominance
⇨ Low self-esteem
⇨ Presence of an extremely passive parent
⇨ Spousal or other abuse in the home
⇨ Comments regarding “seductive” child
⇨ Perceives that child enjoys the sexual relationship
⇨ Perceives sexual relationship within family to be an indicator of love and affection
⇨ Extreme reaction to sex education or abuse prevention materials

Physical Neglect

Physical Indicators
⇨ Lack of adequate food/clothing
⇨ Poor hygiene
⇨ Constant fatigue/listlessness
⇨ Abandonment
⇨ Unattended physical problems: medical/dental needs
Child’s Behaviors
⇨ Erratic school sttendance/ tardiness
⇨ Extremes in behaviors
⇨ Depressed, bull, apathetic appearance
⇨ Child not thriving in general/frail
⇨ Food associated problems: begs, steals, refuses to eat
⇨ Developmental lags: physical, emotional, and/or intellectual
Caretaker Characteristics
⇨ Apathetic/ passive
⇨ Depressed
⇨ Socially isolated
⇨ Low self-esteem
⇨ Unsafe living conditions

Emotional Abuse

Physical Indicators
⇨ Regressive behavior
⇨ Failure-to-thrive in infancy
⇨ Low self-esteem
⇨ Physical problems worsened by emotional distress
Child’s Behaviors
⇨ Sleep disorders
⇨ Long-term depression
⇨ Conduct disorders
⇨ Developmental lags
⇨ Behavior extremes: passive/compliant, aggressive/demanding
⇨ Overly adaptive behavior/inappropriately mature (parents other children)
Caretaker Characteristics
⇨ Unrealistic expectations of child
⇨ Threatens child
⇨ Name calling/ belittling
⇨ Treats siblings unequally
⇨ Low self-esteem
⇨ Seems unconcerned about child
⇨ Withholds love/affection

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