Signs and Symptoms

Home / Resources / Signs and Symptoms

The following are signs commonly associated with abuse, but they are not absolutes. This list is not a checklist but a guide to help identify abuse when it is present.

Physical Abuse

  • Frequent injuries that are unexplained and/or when the child or parent cannot adequately explain injury causes such as: bruises, cuts, black eyes, fractures, burns
  • Burns or bruises in an unusual pattern that may indicate the use of an instrument
  • Lack of reaction to pain
  • Injuries that appear after the child has not been seen for several days
  • Evidence of delayed or inappropriate treatment for injuries
  • Injuries involving the face, backs of hands, buttocks, genital area, abdomen, back, or sides of the body
  • Frequent complaints of pain without obvious injury
  • Complaints of soreness or discomfort when moving
  • Aggressive, disruptive, and destructive or self-destructive behavior
  • Passive, withdrawn, emotionless behavior
  • Fear of going home or seeing parents

Neglect

  • Obvious malnourishment or inadequate nutrition
  • Lack of personal cleanliness
  • Torn and/or dirty clothes
  • Need for glasses, dental care, or other unattended medical attention
  • Consistent hunger, stealing or begging for food
  • Distended stomach, emaciated
  • Lack of supervision for long periods of time
  • Frequent absence or tardiness from school
  • Regularly displays fatigue or listlessness or falls asleep in class
  • Reports that no caretaker is at home
  • Self-destructive behavior
  • Extreme loneliness and need for affection

Emotional Abuse

  • Speech disorders
  • Delayed physical development
  • Substance abuse
  • Ulcers, asthma, severe allergies
  • Habit disorders (sucking, rocking, biting)
  • Antisocial or destructive behaviors
  • Delinquent behaviors (especially adolescents)
  • Developmentally delayed

Sexual Abuse

  • Torn, stained, or bloody underclothing
  • Pain, swelling, or itching in genital area
  • Difficulty walking or sitting
  • Excessive seductiveness, inappropriate sex play, or premature understanding of sex
  • Role reversal, overly concerned for siblings
  • Significant weight change
  • Suicide attempts (especially adolescents)
  • Threatened by physical contact or closeness
  • Extreme fear of being alone with adults, especially if of a particular gender
  • Sudden refusal to change for gym or to participate in physical activities
  • Sexual victimization of other children
  • Major change in normal mood or behavior