What Are the Different Types of Child Abuse?

The mistreatment of children occurs in a wide variety of circumstances, and there are several different types of child abuse. Some people think physical acts such as hitting, kicking, and pushing are the only types of child abuse. Unfortunately, cruelty to kids includes sexual, mental, and emotional violence as well.

Childhood maltreatment can be separated into five categories: physical, sexual, emotional, neglect, and exploitation. The common thread running through all types of child abuse is that the poor treatment causes harm or creates the potential for harm to a person under 18 years old. Abusing a child is a criminal act with long-term, possibly lifelong consequences.

Physical abuse includes any action that causes bodily damage to a child. Beating, punching, kicking, and hitting with an object are all forms of physical abuse. Parents are not the only guilty parties when it comes to physical maltreatment. Any adult responsible for the welfare of a child can exhibit abusive behavior. Physical acts that bodily injure a child are considered abusive even if the injury was unintentional.

Sexual abuse is one of the most damaging types of child abuse, and it involves any form of sexual behavior associated with children. Sexual penetration is only one form of child sex abuse. Fondling of the genitals and indecent exposure are also considered sexual abuse, as is child pornography in any form.


Emotional abuse frequently stems from verbal criticism and threats, but it can also include withholding love, guidance, and support from a child. This is one of the most difficult types of child abuse to identify and prove, because the damaging acts can be quite subtle. Experience has shown that emotional abuse is often combined with other forms of child maltreatment.

Child neglect can include a number of circumstances, including physical, medical, emotional, and educational. A parent or guardian who willingly fails to provide food, shelter, and supervision to a child is neglecting the young person’s welfare. Failure to seek medical or mental health treatment for a child can also be considered neglect. Negligence can also occur when a child’s emotional or psychological needs are ignored or when he or she is not properly educated. This includes situations where special education needs are not provided.

Exploitation of a child is typically associated with sexual abuse, and it includes child prostitution, online sexual abuse of a child, and anything related to child pornography. Non-sexual exploitation of a child is also a form of abuse. This can include improper or unfair treatment of a child and using a young person for some type of financial or personal gain.

The consequences of child abuse are life changing and long lasting. Some victims of child abuse grow up to be abusers themselves. Others suffer from developmental difficulties or are unable to form successful social relationships. Many abuse victims use high-risk behavior as a coping mechanism and wind up with alcohol and drug problems.

Child abuse prevention is accomplished through education and support of parents, especially those at risk for abusive behavior. Risk factors for all types of child abuse include inexperience, lack of support and poverty. Poor living standards are frequently found in abusive home environments.



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