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Signs and Sympton of Child Abuse, care for children and young people Assignment

Working as a student nurse in the Accident and Emergency Department you need to know what to look for when it comes to recognising the signs and symptoms of child abuse. The first step for helping children who are being neglected or abused is the learn how to recognise these signs and symptoms of child abuse. There are four different types of abuse, these are physical, sexual, emotional and neglect. If you are unsure or worried about the welfare of a child you should do something about it, don’t keep it to yourself.

Physical Abuse

This type of abuse is intentional and non-accidental to the child. The abuser purposely sets out to hurt the child with physical force and violence. Physical abuse includes throwing, hitting, shaking, poisoning or suffocating. It can also involve the adult providing the child with alcohol and inappropriate drugs.

Physical observations

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– Bruising on upper arms, shoulders, neck, consistent with gripping.

– Unexplained burns and scalds, especially cigarette burns and burns that are caused from lengthy exposure to heat.

– Human bite marks

– Fractures, most particularly spiral fractures (a fracture which runs around the axis of the bone).

– Swelling and lack of normal use of limbs.

– Any serious injury with no explanation.

– Untreated injuries.

As well as looking out for the physical signs it is important to look out for unusual behaviours from the child, here are some examples below.

Behavioural observations

– Refusal to discuss injuries/fear of medical help.

– Withdrawal from physical contact.

– Wears cover-up clothing.

– Unusually fearful with adults

– Unnaturally compliant with parents.

Sexual Abuse

Sexual abuse is the use of children for sexual gratification. It can include physical contact, touching sex organs, looking at pornographic materials. Sexual abuse can occur in any age group with both boys and girls. The perpetrators can be men OR women. Children can be forced to be involved in sexual activity.

Physical Observations

– Sexually Transmitted Disease.

– Difficulty walking or sitting.

– Unexpected pregnancy from young girls.

– Unexplained reoccurring urinary tract infections and discharges or abdominal pain.

– Soreness in genital area, anus or mouth.

Behavioural Indicators

– Demonstrates sexual knowledge inappropriate for their age.

– Hinting at sexual activity.

– Acting out, aggressive behaviour.

– Poor trust in significant adults.

– Running away from home.

– Socially withdrawn.

– Lack of concentration, restlessness.

– Onset of insecure, clinging behaviour.

Emotional Abuse

Emotional abuse is persistent emotionally cruel treatment of a child which can affect the child’s emotional development and mental health. Being emotionally abused may cause a child to be isolated from a peer group or ignored by family members. Emotional abuse can also be what we call ‘bullying’. This could be face to face, text messaging, e-mail, social networking sites, graffiti and deliberately being left out.

– Acceptance of punishments which appears to be excessive.

– Fear of parents being contacted and confronted.

– Running away.

– Fear of new situations.

– Over reaction to mistakes.

– Physical, mental and emotional development lags.

– Inappropriate emotional responses to painful situations.

– Drug/solvent abuse.

– Compulsive stealing/scavenging.

– Neurotic behaviour such as rocking, hair twisting and thumb sucking.

– Sudden speech disorders.


Neglect is failure of the parents or carers to provide the child with safety and meeting their psychological and physical needs. The parents of carers of the child do not always do this intentionally. Some may put their own needs before the child and totally forget about them. Neglect can include leaving the child with inappropriate carers and leaving them for long periods of time on their own.

Physical observations

– Poor state of clothing (dirty and ragged).

– Poor skin tone and hair tone.

– Untreated medical problems.

– Poor personal hygiene

– Pot belly, gauntness, short build

Behavioural observations

– Low self-esteem.

– Running away.

– Constant hunger.

– Constant tiredness.

– Neurotic behaviour.

– Multiple accident and accidental injuries.

– No social relationships.

– Frequent lateness or non-attendance at school.

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