Child abuse is when a parent or caregiver does something that results in harm to a child. There are many different types of child abuse. In over 80% of cases, the parent is the abuser. Child abuse can be physical, emotional, or sexual. Neglect is also a form of abuse. In fact, neglect is the number one form of child abuse. Here is an overview of each kind of abuse children may experience.


Neglect is the number one type of child abuse. There are different types of neglect. Physical neglect is when a parent fails to care for a child’s basic needs such as food, clothing, and shelter. Medical neglect is when a parent isn’t providing necessary medical treatment. Neglect can also mean that young children are left alone without adequate care and supervision. 

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse is any non-accidental injury to a child by a parent, caregiver, or any other person responsible for the child that results in injury. This can include punching, kicking, biting, shaking, or any other physical harm. Physical abuse is often seen when a caregiver becomes angry and strikes shakes, or throws a child. 

Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse is behavior by a parent or caregiver that damages a child’s emotional state and self-worth. It can include constant criticism, rejection, threatening a child, or withholding love. One of the key indicators of emotional abuse is the absence of positive interactions between parent and child. Emotional abuse also includes verbal abuse- screaming, belittling, or excessive criticism. 

Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse includes inappropriate touching like fondling, rape, indecent exposure, incest, or sodomy. When sexual abuse occurs, it involves these acts for sexual gratification or financial gain by the perpetrator. Approximately 65,000 cases of sexual abuse are reported every year, making up almost 9% of reported abuse cases. 

Shaken Baby Syndrome

Shaken baby syndrome can occur when a parent or caregiver shakes a baby so hard that brain damage or death may occur. It usually occurs when a parent is very frustrated with a child that cannot be soothed. Parents shake the child violently, causing brain injury or whiplash. There are often no obvious physical symptoms of shaken baby syndrome, so it can be overlooked until an infant becomes seriously ill.

Domestic Violence

Domestic violence or domestic abuse is when one partner uses abusive behavior to gain control of another. It can be physical, mental, financial, or psychological. Domestic violence often occurs at home and is hidden from the public eye. The violence has a great impact on families and children, causing long-term physical and psychological harm.


Trafficking and exploitation of children make up 27% of all trafficking in the world. Two-thirds of these victims are girls. Children are trafficked for sexual exploitation or labor. They may be promised a better life, sold by their families, or kidnapped.

What to do if you suspect a child is being abused

Anyone who witnesses abusive behavior towards a child can and should report it! Child abuse takes many forms: physical, emotional, verbal, sexual, neglect, exploitation, Shaken Baby Syndrome, bullying, and more. Neglect kills more children each year than any other form of childhood maltreatment. To report suspected child abuse, please call the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453)

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