Image courtesy of NSPCC
There are a thousand ways to harm a child. The evidence of child abuse may be subtle or more obvious. To remain vigilant against such abuse, those of us concerned for the welfare of children must learn to recognize the warning signs.
This series of posts will address such warning signs. The signs here are derived from lists compiled by Prevent Child Abuse America [1A]. They fall into 4 categories: neglect, emotional abuse, physical abuse, and sexual abuse. More often than not, these categories will overlap in the experience of a child.
No single warning sign, by itself, is considered definitive. Occurring repeatedly or in combination, however, these signs warrant further investigation.
The general signs that child abuse may be present in a family include unusual wariness on the part of a child; sudden changes in a child’s behavior; deterioration in a child’s school performance; and learning disabilities on a child’s part unrelated to an identifiable medical or psychological condition.
But the children of abuse may, also, be overachievers, anxious to please.
That said, we will begin with neglect.
Child neglect involves the failure to provide for a child’s basic needs for nurture, nutrition, shelter, education, healthcare, and safety.
Neglect can be difficult to distinguish from poverty. Sadly, there are children in this country who still do not get enough to eat, even in an otherwise loving home.
The Opioid Crisis has made the situation worse, greatly increasing the number of young children forced to cope without adult supervision. Stressors like unemployment and loss of insurance can be additional factors.
The warning signs of child neglect include the following [1B]:
- A child who is frequently absent from school.
- A child who is consistently dirty and has severe body odor.
- A child who appears malnourished, failing to achieve appropriate height and weight gain for his/her age.
- A child who begs food or steals money from classmates.
- A child who lacks adequate clothing for the weather.
- A child who lacks necessary eyeglasses, immunizations, medical and/or dental care.
- A child who has mental health issues like low self-esteem, anorexia, or binge eating.
- A child who abuses drugs or alcohol.
- A child who says there is no one at home to provide care.
The parent of a neglected child is likely to be indifferent to his/her child. Such a parent may appear severely depressed or act irrationally.
Any parent who abuses alcohol or drugs places a child at grave risk of neglect and other forms of abuse.
 Prevent Child Abuse America, “Recognizing Child Abuse: What Parents Should Know”, https://preventchildabuse.org/resource/recognizing-child-abuse-what-parents-should-know/.
 First Cry – Parenting, “Neglect – Causes, Effects, and Prevention” by Romita P, 2/12/18, https://parenting.firstcry.com/articles/child-neglect-causes-effects-and-prevention/ .
 Dusunen Adam – Journal of Psychiatry and Neurological Sciences, “Eating disorders and emotional neglect: a case report” by Aylin Ağırman and Fulya Maner, 2010, http://www.dusunenadamdergisi.org/ing/fArticledetails.aspx?MkID=127.
This series will continue next week with Part 2 – Emotional Abuse
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