Child Abuse

If someone under the age of 18 years is being deliberately harmed or not being looked after, this is child abuse.

There are 4 types of child abuse – physical, emotional, sexual and neglect.

Physical abuse

Hitting, slapping, kicking and shaking are just a few examples of physical abuse. Any deliberate act that is meant to cause physical harm or pain to a child is physical abuse.

How to spot the signs:

  • The child may have regular unexplained injuries, bruises and marks
  • Injuries may be covered up with clothing that is not weather appropriate, for example, long sleeved clothes and trousers on a hot day
  • They may demonstrate a fear of physical contact

Emotional abuse

Emotional abuse has a detrimental effect on how children feel about themselves and it affects their emotional well-being.

Being made to feel worthless, being bullied and being made to feel frightened are all forms of emotional abuse. Seeing someone else in the family being hurt by another member of the family can also be emotional abuse.

How to spot the signs:

  • Emotional, mental and physical development delays
  • Self-depreciation and feeling of worthlessness
  • Inappropriate response to pain – they may feel like they deserve pain
  • Agitated behaviour such as self-harming or rocking


When a child is not being looked after and their most basic needs are not being met, this is neglect.

These basic needs include:

  • Being kept safe in the home
  • Being provided with adequate shelter and clothing
  • Proper cleanliness
  • Access to medical treatment
  • Being protected from both emotional and physical harm

How to spot the signs

A child who is being neglected may:

    • Be malnourished or constantly hungry
    • Be fatigued
    • Have poor hygiene and unwashed clothes/damaged clothes
    • Have poor school attendance

    Sexual abuse

    Please see our Child Sexual Exploitation page for more information.

    Where to get help

    Speak to a Police Officer: If you think someone is in immediate danger call 999. To talk something through with one of our specialist officers, call 101.

    Childline: A confidential 24 hour free telephone helpline. It provides emotional support for children and young people on issues relating to child abuse, bullying etc. Call Freephone: 0800 1111 or visit Childline