Department of Child Safety, Youth and Women

Signs of child abuse and neglect

A child who has been, or may be experiencing abuse may show behavioural, emotional or physical signs of stress and abuse.

Some general indicators of child abuse include:

  • showing wariness and distrust of adults
  • rocking, sucking or biting excessively
  • bedwetting or soiling
  • demanding or aggressive behaviour
  • sleeping difficulties, often being tired and falling asleep
  • low self-esteem
  • difficulty relating to adults and peers
  • abusing alcohol or drugs
  • being seemingly accident prone
  • having broken bones or unexplained bruising, burns or welts in different stages of healing
  • being unable to explain an injury, or providing explanations that are inconsistent, vague or unbelievable
  • feeling suicidal or attempting suicide
  • having difficulty concentrating
  • being withdrawn or overly obedient
  • being reluctant to go home
  • creating stories, poems or artwork about abuse.

Some indicators of neglect include:

  • malnutrition, begging, stealing or hoarding food
  • poor hygiene, matted hair, dirty skin or body odour
  • unattended physical or medical problems
  • comments from a child that no one is home to provide care
  • being constantly tired
  • frequent lateness or absence from school
  • inappropriate clothing, especially inadequate clothing in winter
  • frequent illness, infections or sores
  • being left unsupervised for long periods.
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