Indicators of Child Abuse

Indicators of Emotional Abuse

There may be physical indicators that a child is being emotionally abused. Some examples of this are:

  • Bed-wetting or bed soiling that has no medical cause
  • Frequent psychosomatic complaints (e.g. headaches, nausea, abdominal pains)
  • Prolonged vomiting or diarrhoea
  • Has not attained significant developmental milestones
  • Dressed differently from other children in the family
  • Has deprived physical living conditions compared with other children in the family

There may also be behavioural indicators that child or young person is being emotionally abused. Some examples of this are:

  • Suffers from severe developmental gaps
  • Severe symptoms of depression, anxiety, withdrawal or aggression
  • Severe symptoms of self-destructive behaviour – self-harming, suicide attempts, engaging in drug or alcohol abuse
  • Overly compliant; too well-mannered; too neat and clean
  • Displays attention seeking behaviours or displays extreme inhibition in play
  • When at play, behaviour may model or copy negative behaviour and language used at home

There may be indicators in adult behaviour that could indicate emotional abuse. Some examples of this are:

  • Constantly calls the child or young person names, labels the child or publicly humiliates the child
  • Continually threatens the child or young person with physical harm or forces the child to witness physical harm inflicted on a loved one
  • Has unrealistic expectations of the child or young person
  • Involves the child or young person in “adult issues”, such as separation or access issues
  • Keeps the child or young person at home in a role of subservient or surrogate parent

Indicators of Neglect

There may be physical indicators that a child or young person is being neglected. Some examples of this are:

  • Inappropriate dress for the weather
  • Extremely dirty or unbathed
  • Inadequately supervised or left alone for unacceptable periods of time
  • Malnourished
  • May have severe nappy rash or other persistent skin disorders or rashes resulting from improper care or lack of hygiene

There may also be behavioural indicators that child or young person is being neglected. Some examples of this are:

  • Demonstrates severe lack of attachment to other adults
  • Poor school attendance or school performance
  • Poor social skills
  • May steal food
  • Is very demanding of affection or attention
  • Has no understanding of basic hygiene

There may be indicators in adult behaviour that could indicate neglect. Some examples of this are:

  • Fails to p