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Learn about the major types of child abuse and what constitutes physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse and neglect of a child.Learn about the major types of child abuse and what constitutes physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse and neglect of a child.

4 Major Types of Child Abuse

Types of child abuse are broken down in four distinct categories:

What is Physical Child Abuse?

Physical child abuse is an injury resulting from physical aggression. Even if the injury was not intended, the act is considered physical abuse. The injury from physical child abuse may be the result of:

  • Beating, slapping, or hitting.
  • Pushing, shaking, kicking, or throwing.
  • Pinching, biting, choking, or hair-pulling.
  • Burning with cigarettes, scalding water, or other hot objects.
  • Severe physical punishment.

Is physical punishment the same as physical abuse?

Physical abuse is an injury resulting from physical aggression. Physical punishment is the use of physical force with the intent of inflicting bodily pain, but not injury, for the purpose of correction or control. As you can see, physical punishment can easily get out of control and become physical abuse.

Some other specific types of physical child abuse are:

  • Shaken Baby Syndrome - Shaking a baby or toddler can cause serious head injuries.
  • Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome - Inducing medical illness in a child or wrongly convincing others that a child is sick is both dangerous and abusive.
  • Drug use during pregnancy - Drug and alcohol use during pregnancy or lactation can be harmful to your child, leading to problems such as Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

Hundreds of thousands of children are physically abused each year by someone close to them, and thousands of children die from the injuries. For those who survive, the emotional scars are deeper than the physical scars.

Some Signs of Physical Child Abuse

  • Burns, bite marks, cuts, bruises, or welts in the shape of an object.
  • Resistance to going home.
  • Fear of adults.

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What is Child Sexual Abuse?

Sexual abuse of a child is any sexual act between an adult and a child, including penetration, intercourse, incest, rape, oral sex, and sodomy. Other examples include:

  • Fondling - Touching or kissing a child's genitals, making a child fondle an adult's genitals.
  • Violations of bodily privacy - Forcing a child to undress, spying on a child in the bathroom or bedroom.
  • Exposing children to adult sexuality - Performing sexual acts in front of a child, exposing genitals, telling "dirty" stories, showing pornography to a child.
  • Commercial exploitation - Sexual exploitation through child prostitution or child pornography.

Regardless of the child's behavior or reactions, it is the responsibility of the adult not to engage in sexual acts with children. Sexual abuse is never the child's fault. Sexual child abusers can be:

  • Fathers, mothers, siblings, or other relatives.
  • Childcare professionals or babysitters.
  • Clergy, teachers, or athletic coaches.
  • Foster parents or host families of foreign-exchange students.
  • Neighbors or friends.
  • Strangers

Some Signs of Sexual Child Abuse

  • Inappropriate interest in or knowledge of sexual acts.
  • Seductiveness.
  • Avoidance of things related to sexuality, or rejection of own genitals or body.
  • Either overcompliance or excessive aggression.
  • Fear of a particular person or family member.