Child abuse and neglect is an epidemic across the entire world. In the U.S. alone, child protection agencies get over 3.6 million referrals, affecting over 6.6 million children per year.  A study showed that 80% of childhood abuse victims had at least one psychological disorder by the time they were 21 years old. This is a devastating situation that gets more serious by neglect.

It’s not an issue that only social workers, teachers, and psychologists should bother with. We should all learn how to recognize the child-abuse signs, so we can react and prevent further damage for the victims. 

Types of Child Abuse – How to Recognize Them

We need to be deeply informed about the issue, so we can see the reality about this huge problem in our society.

These are the main types of abuse we can recognize:

1. Neglect

Many children are left to lead unhealthy lives, without consistent clothing, shelter, and food. It’s difficult to recognize neglect, since we tend to assume that all parents care for their children. Many parents and guardians don’t have the needed financial resources to provide for all aspects of care, but that doesn’t mean they are purposefully neglecting their children.

Here are a few signs of clear neglect that we can recognize:

  • Not providing for meals, shelter, and other basic needs of children
  • Keeping them in unhygienic conditions
  • Not dressing the child suitably for the weather (for example, they may be left without a coat in winter)
  • Leaving the small child unattended for long periods of time
  • Not taking them to the dentist or doctor when it’s a necessity

In short, neglect is an ongoing failure to cover the basic needs of children.

2. Psychological or Emotional Abuse

This is another form of “subtle” abuse that’s not visible to the eye. It happens when the child’s wellbeing and self-confidence is purposefully harmed by different actions:

  • Not expressing love and care, and avoiding physical contact
  • Emotional blackmail: “You did this, so you don’t love your mommy. She’ll get sick and it will be your fault.”
  • Bullying and threatening
  • Constantly yelling or shouting
  • The “silent treatment”

Emotional abuse is difficult to recognize, since some of it may occur in rare circumstances, when the parents or guardians are too upset. If this occurs consistently, we’re talking about abuse. This type of behavior is often taken as a theme in college writing and all levels of education. If you look at an essay example at, you’ll notice that it’s an elaborate topic that’s not easy to study and research. The victims show signs of constant anxiety and fear. They lack attachment to the abusive caregiver, and they show behavior that’s not appropriate for their age (like too childish behavior in middle school).

3. Physical Abuse

This type of behavior is defined as use of physical force with a clear intention to harm a child. These are clear signs of it:

  • Hitting, shaking, or pushing a child
  • Slapping that’s excessive and occurs commonly
  • Withholding a child’s medication or food
  • More serious cases may involve tying down the child, poisoning them, depriving them of air, or burning their skin

The victims show obvious signs, such as bruises, broken bones, burns, and other injuries. They may often come up with weird explanations for them.

4. Sexual Abuse

This is the most disturbing type of child abuse. It’s defined as forcing a child to participate in any kind of sexual activity. Penetration and rape are the most obvious cases of sexual abuse, but it also occurs when the child is forced to watch sexual acts or to perform sexual acts with other children. Children are also being forced or manipulated to undress or get into non-penetrative sexual activities. Grooming children for sexual encounters in the future is also considered sexual abuse.

The victims may have nightmares, object going to a particular place or see certain people, run away, withdraw from activities they used to enjoy, or/and show obvious sexual knowledge that’s not appropriate for their age.

How to Respond to Child Abuse

Child abuse is an important topic not only for social workers, but for the entire society as well. Whenever someone recognizes the signs of neglect, physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, they should speak up. It’s the only way for the children to get the protection they need.

In the U.S., you can call the police to anonymously report the case. The police and social services will investigate it from there on.

BIO: Michael Turner never stopped learning and researching since he got interested in the psychology of abuse. Millions of children around the world are robbed out of their basic rights. Michael writes blog posts with an intention to increase awareness on the issue of child abuse.