The World Health Organization (WHO) definition of Child Maltreatment:
“Child maltreatment, sometimes referred to as child abuse and neglect, includes all forms of physical and emotional ill-treatment, sexual abuse, neglect, and exploitation that results in actual or potential harm to the child’s health, development or dignity. Within this broad definition, five subtypes can be distinguished – physical abuse; sexual abuse; neglect and negligent treatment; emotional abuse; and exploitation.”
The United States Federal Law definition of Child Abuse and Neglect:
“Any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation; or an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm.”
According to the Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), most States recognize the four major types of maltreatment: physical abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse.
1. Physical abuse is nonaccidental physical injury (ranging from minor bruises to severe fractures or death) as a result of punching, beating, kicking, biting, shaking, throwing, stabbing, choking, hitting (with a hand, stick, strap, or other object), burning, or otherwise harming a child, that is inflicted by a parent, caregiver, or other person who the family is in need of information or assistance.
2. Sexual abuse includes activities by a parent or caregiver such as fondling a child’s genitals, penetration, incest, rape, sodomy, indecent exposure, and exploitation through prostitution or the production of pornographic materials.
3. Emotional abuse (or psychological abuse) is a pattern of behavior that impairs a child’s emotional development or sense of selfworth. This may include constant criticism, threats, or rejection, as well as withholding love, support, or guidance.
4. Neglect is the failure of a parent, guardian, or other caregiver to provide for a child’s basic needs. Neglect may be:
- Physical (e.g., failure to provide necessary food or shelter, or lack of appropriate supervision)
- Medical (e.g., failure to provide necessary medical or mental health treatment)
- Educational (e.g., failure to educate a child or attend to special education needs)
- Emotional (e.g., inattention to a child’s emotional needs, failure to provide psychological care, or permitting the child to use alcohol or other drugs)
The following signs may signal the presence of child abuse or neglect:
- Shows sudden changes in behavior or school performance
- Has not received help for physical or medical problems brought to the parents’ attention
- Has learning problems (or difficulty concentrating) that cannot be attributed to specific physical or psychological causes
- Is always watchful, as though preparing for something bad to happen
- Lacks adult supervision
*To learn more about recognizing Child Maltreatment according to the World Health Organization and Child Abuse and Neglect in the United States, in detail, please click on the links provided below.
Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2013). What is child abuse and neglect? Recognizing the signs and symptoms. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Bureau, Retrieved from https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/factsheets/whatiscan/
World Health Organization. (2016). Child Maltreatment (Factsheet No. 150). Retrieved from http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs150/en/
Aneeta Pearson, MSW, MS
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