Child Abuse

Child Abuse, a girl hurting


  • Any act or series of acts of commission or omission by a parent, caregiver, or another person in custodial role which results in physical, mental, or emotional harm, or potential harm, or threat of harm to a child.


  • Physical abuse is the intentional use of physical force that can result in physical injury. Examples include hitting, kicking, shaking, burning, or other shows of force against a child.

  • Sexual abuse involves pressuring or forcing a child to engage in sexual acts. It includes behaviors such as fondling, penetration, and exposing a child to other sexual activities. Please see CDC’s Preventing Child Sexual Abuse webpage for more information.

  • Emotional abuse refers to behaviors that harm a child’s self-worth or emotional well-being. Examples include name-calling, shaming, rejecting, withholding love, and threatening.

  • Neglect is the failure to meet a child’s basic physical and emotional needs. These needs include housing, food, clothing, education, access to medical care, and having feelings validated and appropriately responded to.


  • Children who are abused and neglected may suffer immediate physical injuries such as cuts, bruises, or broken bones. They may also have emotional and psychological problems, such as anxiety or post-traumatic stress.

  • Over the long term, children who are abused or neglected are also at increased risk for experiencing future violence victimization and perpetration, substance abuse, sexually transmitted infections, delayed brain development, lower educational attainment, and limited employment opportunities.

  • Chronic abuse may result in toxic stress, which can change brain development and increase the risk for problems like posttraumatic stress disorder and learning, attention, and memory difficulties.

How Children are Affected by Living with and Witnessing Domestic Violence:

Child Abuse, boy tearing

Emotional Effects:

Feelings of powerlessness

Low self-esteem, feelings of worthlessness

Confusion and insecurity

Sadness and depression

Poor definition of self and/or defines self in parenting role (role reversal)


Constant Fear

Self-blame, guilt at escaping punishment and being unable to protect someone they love

Behavioral Effects:

          Poor impulse control

          Stress disorders and psychosomatic complaints

          Increased social isolation, withdrawal


          Dependence, passiveness

          Bed-wetting, nightmares

          Lack of creativity and healthy exploration

Cognitive Effects:

Inability to predict and make inferences

Difficulty focusing on the content of language; language is used to keep others at a distance rather than to convey meaning

Feeling of incompetence, risk avoidance

Lack of sense of consistency and predictability required for sequential ordering; encodes new information episodically or not at all

Fear of abandonment

Behavior to expect:

Loss of appetite

Sleep disturbance

School problems – refusal to go, truancy, poor performance

Anxiety, fear of abandonment



Increased violent behavior

Verbal abusiveness, lying

Regression – wanting the bottle, baby talk, thumb sucking



Video on Adverse Childhood Experiences

We are a safe place Faith Community