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health tips - How to Recognize Child Abuse and Neglect

How to Recognize Child Abuse and Neglect

Each year, more than 2 million child abuse cases are reported in the U.S. and while physical abuse is the most visible, emotional abuse and child neglect can also leave long lasting scars.  Learning and noticing the signs and symptoms of child abuse can help break the cycle.

Warning Signs of Emotional Abuse in Children

  • Excessively withdrawn, fearful or anxious about doing something wrong
  • Shows extremes in behavior (extremely compliant/ demanding, passive/aggressive)
  • Doesn't seem to be attached to a parent or caregiver
  • Acts either inappropriately adult (taking care of other children) or inappropriately infantile (rocking, thumbsucking)

Warning Signs of Physical Abuse

  • Frequent injuries or unexplained bruises/welts/cuts
  • Always watchful and "on alert" as if waiting for something to happen
  • Injuries appear to have a pattern such as marks from a hand or belt
  • Shies away from touch, flinches at sudden movements
  • Wears inappropriate clothing to cover injuries

Warning Signs of Neglect

  • Clothes don't fit, are filthy or inappropriate for weather
  • Hygiene is consistently bad
  • Untreated illnesses and physical injuries
  • Is frequently unsupervised, left alone or plays in unsafe situations or environments
  • Is frequently late or missing from school

Information provided by Anne Grote, RN, Child/Family
Protective Services at Advocate
Hope Children's Hospital, Oak Lawn

For more information call 1.800.3.Advocate or visit

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