Child neglect and emotional abuse
Neglect and emotional abuse can cause a child a lot of harm. It is often hard to see or prove this kind of abuse, so other people are less likely to help the child. When a child is being physically or sexually abused, emotional abuse is also often happening to the child.
Neglect - child; Emotional abuse - child
These are examples of emotional abuse:
- Not providing the child with a safe environment. The child witnesses violence or severe abuse between parents or adults.
- Threatening the child with violence or abandonment.
- Constantly criticizing or blaming the child for problems.
- The child's parent or caregiver does not show concern for the child, and refuses help from others for the child.
These are signs that a child that may be emotionally abused. They may have:
- Problems in school
- Eating disorders, leading to weight loss or poor weight gain
- Emotional issues such as low self-esteem, depression, and anxiety
- Extreme behavior such as acting out, trying hard to please, aggressiveness
- Trouble sleeping
- Vague physical complaints
These are examples of child neglect:
- Rejecting the child and not giving the child any love.
- Not feeding the child.
- Not dressing the child in proper clothing.
- Not giving needed medical or dental care.
- Leaving a child alone for a long time. This is called abandonment.
These are signs that a child may be neglected. The child may:
- Not go to school regularly
- Smell badly and be dirty
- Tell you that there is no one at home to take care of them
- Be depressed, show bizarre behavior, or use alcohol or drugs
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP
If you think a child is in immediate danger because of abuse or neglect, call 911.
Call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline (1-800-4-A-CHILD).
Counseling and support groups are available for children and for abusive parents who want to get help.
The long-term outcome depends on:
- How severe the abuse was
- How long the child was abused
- The success of therapy and parenting classes
Berkowitz CD, Stewart ST. Child maltreatment. In: Marx JA, Hockberger RS, Walls RM, et al, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 66.
Dubowitz H, Lane WG. Abused and neglected children. In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St. Geme JW, Schor NF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 40.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Children's Bureau. Child abuse and neglect. Acf.hhs.gov Web site. Updated December 29, 2016. www.acf.hhs.gov/cb/focus-areas/child-abuse-neglect. Accessed January 9, 2017.