What Is Child-On-Child Abuse?

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  • Written By: Tara Barnett
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 24 May 2019
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Child-on-child abuse is a type of abuse in which one or more children abuse another child. Although some abusers might be considered children were they the victims of crimes, when children progress into their teenage years they are sometimes treated as adults when they abuse younger children. In many cases, child-on-child abuse involves a sexual element, because violence between children is usually considered somewhat normal behavior as long as it does not progress to extreme injuries. Sexual abuse enacted on children by children is considered a very serious crime and is sometimes even prosecuted in court.

Usually, child-on-child abuse occurs between children who are close, either through family relations, friendships, or school. This is primarily because children do not have many opportunities to select victims outside their own social circles. Abuse in these situations is often sheltered from recognition because it is assumed that all abuse of children is at the hands of adults. As such, child-on-child abuse can go undetected for long periods of time, even when the symptoms would be otherwise obvious.

Sexual abuse between children is serious, but it must be differentiated from children's curiosity about the bodies of other people as well as consensual activities that appear sexual. In order for the situation to constitute abuse, at least one of the children must partially understand the situation and aim to achieve sexual satisfaction. Even if the concept of rape is not involved, children can rape other children.


Physical child-on-child abuse without a sexual element is more difficult to establish, given that children often hit one another without establishing a pattern of abuse. When hitting or physical violence is secretive, it can sometimes be considered abusive. Simple bullying is usually not considered abuse, nor are other behaviors that arise not out of a desire to hurt the victim child but out of emotional states and a failure to understand boundaries.

Although many people believe that boys are the main perpetrators of child-on-child abuse, girls are also often abusive, both to other girls and boys. Age differences between children may be very small, but when the difference is large the crime is often considered more serious. Children use a number of different tactics to abuse one another, and size and age do not always determine who is the abuser in a given situation.

Often, child-on-child abuse does result in serious consequences for the child in question, sometimes even involving the court system. When detected, this type of abuse must be investigated, and, depending on the severity of the crime and the age of the offender, may even result in incarceration in a juvenile detention facility. Typically, counseling and other therapeutic treatments are required after abuse has been discovered.



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