Child Abuse: Physically, Mentally and Emotionally Damaging or Neglecting Children

child abuse and neglect

What is Child Abuse?

Child abuse is generally considered to be the physical or psychological emotional mistreatment of children. In the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) define child abuse as: “any act or series of acts of commission or omission by a parent or other caregiver that results in the harm, potential for harm, or threat of harm to a child.”

There are other variations of the definition as well. According to the Journal of Child Abuse and Neglect, child abuse is “any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation, an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm”.

Most child abuse  and mistreatment occurs in a child’s own home, with some child abuse occurring in organizations such as schools, churches, or other organizations or communities the child attends or interacts with.

Types of Child Abuse

There are four major categories of child abuse:

  • Neglect
  • Physical abuse
  • Psychological or emotional abuse
  • Child sexual abuse

Different jurisdictions have developed their own definitions of what constitutes child abuse and child mistreatment for the purposes of removing a child from a family and/or prosecuting a criminal charge.

Child Neglect

Child neglect is generally defined as “the failure of a person responsible for a child’s care and upbringing to safeguard the child’s emotional and physical health and general well-being”. The harm to a child may or may not be the intended consequence.

The following are types of child neglect:

  • Failure to provide care
  • Physical neglect
  • Emotional neglect
  • Medical/dental neglect
  • Educational deficiencies
  • Failure to adequately supervise
  • Inadequate supervision
  • Exposure to violent or harmful environments
  • Exposure to unsafe living conditions

For more legal definitions, visit our Glossary of Legal and Investigation Terms.


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