Skip to Content
UW Health SMPH
American Family Children's Hospital
SHARE TEXT

Child Abuse and Neglect

Child abuse and neglect is any harm to a child that is not an accident. Child abuse and neglect is also called child maltreatment.

Child abuse and neglect takes many forms.

  • Neglect is when parents or caregivers fail to ensure a child's health and well-being. Neglect may result from not providing a child with appropriate shelter, schooling, clothing, medical care, or protection from hazards. A variety of short-term and long-term problems result, such as developmental delays and failure to thrive.
  • Physical abuse causes bodily injuries, such as bruises, burns, fractures, cuts, punctures, or organ damage. Physical abuse includes harming a fetus, such as when a pregnant woman has substance abuse problems or is purposefully injured. Some states do not consider the use of substances by a pregnant woman to be physical abuse.
  • Emotional (psychological) abuse is a repeated pattern of intentional verbal or behavioral actions or lack of actions toward a child that give the message that he or she is worthless, flawed, unloved, unwanted, endangered, or only of value to meet someone else's needs. Withholding emotional support, isolating, or terrorizing a child are forms of emotional abuse. Intimate partner (domestic) violence that is witnessed by a child is also considered a form of emotional abuse.
  • Sexual abuse is any act with a child that is intended to sexually gratify an older child or adult. It includes any sexual activity that a child does not comprehend or consent to, or that is against the law. Exhibitionism, voyeurism, and exposing a child to pornography are also types of sexual abuse.

Last Revised: December 7, 2012

Author: Healthwise Staff

Medical Review: Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & John Pope, MD - Pediatrics

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

© 1995-2014 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.