What types of abuse can children experience?

20th April 2019by Eve Johnson

In this article

  • What is the definition of abuse?

  • Neglect

  • Physical abuse

  • Emotional abuse

  • Sexual abuse

  • Bullying

  • Modern slavery

  • Discriminatory abuse

  • Fabricated or induced illness

  • Female Genital Mutilation (FGM)

  • Child abuse statistics

There are more than one types of abuse that children can suffer and it is important to know the signs, symptoms and behaviour that will give indications when a child is being abused. Knowing what these are will help to put a stop to that abuse quicker. People who work around children have a duty of care to safeguard them from any abuse and protect children who are vulnerable. What is the definition of abuse? Abuse is defined as “Persistently treating someone with cruelty or violence in one or more ways especially regularly or repeatedly.” Recent findings by the NSPCC shows that there has been an increase in police-recorded child abuse offences across the UK and an increase in the number of children on the child protection register. There are 8 types of abuse, in this blog we will look at what they are and what the signs, symptoms and behaviours of sufferers may be. Neglect Neglect means that a child’s basic needs are failing to be met continuously, there are 4 types of neglect:

  • Physical Neglect – A child won’t be fed, washed, clothed or sheltered properly, it can also mean that they aren’t being kept safe and supervised and that they could end up in physical danger. They may turn up to places dressed inappropriate for the weather, as well as being constantly hungry.

  • Educational neglect – A parent won’t care about their child’s education, which could mean that the child never goes to school, or ends up missing so much school that they haven’t learnt anything.

  • Emotional neglect – This means that the child isn’t getting the nurture they need, they could be getting ignored at home, intimidated by family members, as well as humiliated. This can result in the child getting isolated and extremely lonely.

  • Medical neglect – A child could end up seriously poorly if they don’t receive the proper medical care they need, or their parents don’t give them the medication that they need.

Physical abuse If a child suffers physical abuse they will receive physical injuries that have been done on purpose, as well as feeling intimidated. This includes slapping, punching, shaking, throwing, burning, scratching, biting and restraining. The signs and symptoms are:

  • Multiple bruises, either all over the body or in one certain part.

  • Fractures and dislocations.

  • Scratches and cuts.

  • Bald patches on the scalp, where hair has been pulled out.

  • Bruised eyes.

  • Scalds or burns on the body.

  • The child seeming withdrawn from everyone, as well as mood changes.

Did you know according to Napac 1 in 8 children who are sexually abused are known to the police and children’s services. Emotional abuse This is the threats or actions said and done by an adult, with intention to cause mental harm, physical harm, humiliation and isolation of the child The signs and symptoms include:

  • The child having lack of confidence.

  • Sever anxiety.

  • Aggression towards others.

  • Disturbed sleep patterns.

  • Being overly affectionate to strangers (usually in toddlers).

  • Constant tearfulness and struggling to control their emotions.

  • Having difficulty in maintain relationships, as well as having difficulty making relationships.

  • Seeming isolated from their parents.

  • Lacking in social skills.

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Sexual abuse This is the forcing of undesired sexual behaviour by one person to another, this can be direct abuse, such as rape or sexual touching or making someone watch videos of sexual nature The signs and symptoms are:

  • Bruises around the genital area or thighs.

  • Bite marks and scratches.

  • Sexually transmitted infections, that reoccur often.

  • Blood in underwear.

  • Abdominal pain with no apparent cause.

  • Pregnancy.

  • Refusal to undress in front of others.

  • Inappropriate sexual behaviour.

  • Self-harming.

  • Abusing alcohol and drugs.


This is the repeated verbal, physical, social or psychological aggressive behaviour that can be caused by one person, or a group of people to a less powerful person or group of people. The signs and symptoms include:

  • Withdrawal.

  • Reluctance to be with certain individuals.

  • Unexplained injuries.

  • Loss of valuables.

  • Aggressive towards others.

  • Being afraid to voice opinion.

  • Lowering of confidence and self esteem.

  • Tearfulness.

Bullying can occur by other children, or by adults.

Modern slavery

This type of abuse includes slavery, sex trafficking and forced labour. The signs and symptoms include:

  • Signs of physical and emotional abuse.

  • Rarely allowed to travel alone.

  • Appearing to be under the control of someone else.

  • Few or no personal belongings.

  • Hesitation when speaking with strangers.

  • Not being registered with a school or a GP practice.

  • Reluctant or can’t share personal information or where they live.

  • Orphaned or living apart from their family.

Discriminatory abuse

This occurs when individuals are not treated equally in line with legislation, their values, beliefs and cultures are ignored. Signs and symptoms are:

  • Poor care and support that does not meet the individual’s needs.

  • Verbal abuse.

  • Disrespect towards the individual.

  • Exclusion from activities and services.