Child Safeguarding and Protection Service

Appendix 1 – Signs and Symptoms of Abuse

Signs and Symptoms of Emotional Child Abuse

  • Rejection
  • Lack of praise or encouragement
  • Lack of comfort and love
  • Lack of attachment
  • Lack of proper stimulation
  • Lack of continuity of continuity of care
  • Serious over-protectiveness
  • Inappropriate non-physical punishment
  • Family conflicts and/or violence
  • Inappropriate expectations of a child’s behaviour – relative to his or her age and stage of development
  • Every child who is abused sexually or physically is also emotionally abused

Signs and Symptoms of Physical Abuse

  • Bruises
  • Fractures
  • Swollen joints
  • Burns or scalds
  • Abrasions or lacerations
  • Haemorrhages
  • Damage to body organs
  • Poisonings – repeated
  • Failure to thrive
  • Coma or unconsciousness
  • Death

Signs & Symptoms of Child Sexual Abuse

  • Bleeding from vagina or anus
  • Difficulty or pain in passing urine or faeces
  • An infection may occur secondary to sexual abuse, which may or may not be a definitive sexually transmitted disease.
  • Professionals should be informed if a child has a persistent vaginal discharge or has warts or a rash in the genital area.
  • Noticeable and uncharacteristic change or behaviour
  • Hints about sexual activity
  • Age-inappropriate understanding of sexual behaviour
  • Inappropriate seductive behaviour
  • Sexually aggressive behaviour with others uncharacteristic sexual play with peers or with toys
  • Unusual reluctance to join in normal activities which involve undressing, for example, games or swimming

Particular behavioural signs and emotional problems suggestive of child abuse in young children (0-10)

  • Mood change, for example acting out or the child becomes fearful or withdrawn
  • Lack of concentration (change in school performance)
  • Bed wetting, soiling
  • Psychosomatic complaints: pains, headaches
  • Skin disorders
  • Nightmares, change in sleep patterns
  • School refusal
  • Separation anxiety
  • Loss of appetite
  • Isolation

Particular behavioural signs and emotional problems suggestive of child abuse in older children (over 10)

  • Mood change, for example, depression, failure to communicate
  • Running away
  • Drug, alcohol, or solvent abuse
  • Self-mutilation
  • Suicide attempts
  • Delinquency
  • Truancy
  • Eatings disorders
  • Isolation

Signs and Symptoms of Child Neglect

  • Abandonment or desertion
  • Children persistently left alone without adequate care and supervision.
  • Malnourishment, lacking food, inappropriate food or erratic feeding.
  • Lack of warmth
  • Lack of adequate clothing
  • Lack of protection and exposure to danger, including moral danger, or lack of supervision appropriate to the child’s age
    Persistent failure to attend school
  • Non-organic failure to thrive, that is, a child not gaining weight, not alone due to malnutrition but also due to emotional deprivation
  • Failure to provide adequate care for a child’s medical problems
  • Exploited, overworked