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The Different Types of Child Abuse

separator Many times, parents who abuse their children do not do so intentionally. There are all kinds of reasons why parents become abusive. They may have been abused themselves as children, which can often lead to becoming an abuser as an adult. They may be under severe emotional or financial stress. Sometimes, they’re simply not aware that what they’re doing is abuse, thinking that instead they’re employing important disciplinary measures. 

A general rule of thumb is that child abuse refers to any action that puts a child in danger, either physically or emotionally. This would include any act that has a negative impact on a child’s development. Abuse can also include inaction—failure to act to protect and nurture a child. 

The primary forms of child abuse include: 

Physical abuse: This type of abuse comprises injuries that are not accidental, such as slapping, shaking, kicking, pulling a child’s hair out, hitting, whipping, paddling, etc. 

Sexual abuse: A sexual act between a child and adult. This includes intercourse and activities such as fondling, oral sex, group sex, bringing a child into prostitution or pornography, having sex in front of a child, etc. 

Emotional abuse: Behavior that has a negative impact on the mental health or social development of a child. This includes inducing feelings of shame or embarrassment in a child by name-calling, telling them they’re no good, stupid, etc. Emotional abuse can also be failure to provide positive reinforcement or praise, withholding attention (silent treatment) and not offering physical affection (such as hugging). 

Neglect: Failing to provide for a child’s physical needs. This includes insufficient provision of food or shelter, failure to provide warm clothing in cold weather, failing to ensure adequate supervision, not providing medical care and not ensuring that a child is safe.

American Psychological Association; ChildhelpUSA, Inc.; H. Kaplan, B. Sadock, J. Grebb, Synopsis of Psychiatry, Williams and Wilkins, 1994; M. Sullivan, Clinical Psychiatry News, Spiritualized Therapy May Lessen Symptoms in Sex Abuse Survivors, March 2005.
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