Types of Child Abuse

Warning Signs of Online Sexual Child Abuse

  • Your child spends large amounts of time online, especially at night.
  • You find pornography on your child's computer.
  • Your child receives phone calls from men you don't know, or is making calls, sometimes long distance, to numbers you don't recognize.
  • Your child receives mail, gifts, or packages from someone you don't know.
  • Your child turns the computer monitor off or quickly changes the screen on the monitor when you come into the room.
  • Your child becomes withdrawn from the family.
  • Your child is using an online account belonging to someone else.

Source: U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation

What is Emotional Child Abuse?

Emotional child abuse is any attitude, behavior, or failure to act that interferes with a child's mental health or social development. It can range from a simple verbal insult to an extreme form of punishment. Emotional abuse is almost always present when another form of abuse is found. Surprisingly, emotional abuse can have more long-lasting negative psychiatric effects than either physical abuse or sexual abuse.

Other names for emotional abuse are:

  • Verbal abuse
  • Mental abuse
  • Psychological maltreatment or psychological abuse

Emotional child abuse can come from adults or from other children:

  • Parents or caregivers
  • Teachers or athletic coaches
  • Siblings
  • Bullies at school or elsewhere
  • Middle- and high-school girls in social cliques

What is Child Neglect?

Child neglect is a very common type of child abuse. According to Child Welfare Information Gateway, more children suffer from neglect than from physical and sexual abuse combined. Yet victims are not often identified, primarily because neglect is a type of child abuse that is an act of omission - of not doing something.

Some overlap exists between the definitions of emotional abuse and emotional neglect. However, neglect is a pattern of failing to provide for a child's basic needs. A single act of neglect might not be considered child abuse, but repeated neglect is definitely child abuse. There are three basic types of neglect; physical neglect, educational neglect, and emotional neglect.

Physical Neglect Failure to provide food, clothing appropriate for the weather, supervision, a home that is hygienic and safe, and/or medical care, as needed.
Educational Neglect Failure to enroll a school-age child in school or to provide necessary special education. This includes allowing excessive absences from school.
Emotional Neglect Failure to provide emotional support, love, and affection. This includes neglect of the child's emotional needs and failure to provide psychological care, as needed.

Some Signs of Child Neglect:

  • Clothing unsuited to the weather.
  • Being dirty or unbathed.
  • Extreme hunger.
  • Apparent lack of supervision.

For more detail on recognizing the warning signs and symptoms of the various types of child abuse, see Recognizing Child Abuse: What Parents Should Know.

Administration for Children and Families
National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect Information
National Institutes of Health -National Library of Medicine
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect


next: Laws on Child Abuse. What Constitutes Child Abuse?
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Last Updated: 16 November 2016
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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