Physical abuse

Physical abuse is defined as 'the ongoing physical behaviour of harming the child by hitting, shaking, throwing, poisoning, burning, scalding, drowning, suffocating, or otherwise causing physical harm to a child'. Physical harm may also be caused when a parent or carer fabricates the symptoms of, or deliberately induces, illness in a child.

Physical abuse can take many forms including fractures, non–accidental head injuries, abusive head traumas, physical punishment, violence between peers, female genital mutilation and fabricated, and induced illness.

Although it is common for maltreated children to suffer multiple types of abuse the impact will vary according to severity.

Physical changes to the brain and body as a result of trauma and stress can include:

  • Multiple bruising
  • Fractures
  • Burns
  • Bed sores
  • Unexplained weight loss

Emotional and behavioural signs are often a stress response affecting mental health and can include:

  • Fear
  • Depression
  • Difficulties in forming and maintaining relationships
  • Anxiety
  • Post–traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Behavioural disorders
  • Disruption to education and social relationships
  • Risk–taking behaviours, for example smoking, drinking, drug use or assault. This can be intentional or reckless
  • Development of adult behaviour patterns based on those observed as children

If any of these signs are familiar, see who can help here.

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