Signs of Child Abuse

There are many kinds of child abuse: Emotional, Physical, Sexual and Neglect.  While there are indicators of each that act as red flags and should cause you to take a closer look, it is not a given that a child exhibiting these behaviors is necessarily being abused.


Damage to a child’s self worth due to rejection, humiliation, lack of love, lack of support or concern for the child’s emotional welfare.

Signs of Emotional Abuse:

  • Eating disorders

  • Speech disorders

  • Asthma, severe allergies, or ulcers

  • Biting

  • Rocking

  • Thumb-sucking in older children

  • Overly compliant / overly demanding

  • Withdrawn or aggressive

  • Remaining oblivious to hazards and risks

  • Poor peer relationships


Any mistreatment of a child that results in harm or injury to the child.  This includes hitting, kicking, slapping, shaking, burning, biting, pinching, hair pulling, shoving, whipping and paddling.

Signs of Physical Abuse:

  • Bruises on parts of the body where bruises are not common
  • Welts
  • Burns
  • Requests or feels deserving of punishment
  • Pressure sores
  • Dehydration
  • Fracture
  • Soft tissue swelling
  • Suggests that other children be punished in a harsh manner
  • Is afraid to go home and/or requests to stay in school/day care
  • Is overly shy or avoids physical contact with parents/adults
  • Failure to thrive
  • Malnutrition
  • Subdural hematoma


The exploitation of a child or adolescent for the sexual gratification of another person.  It is not necessary for there to be physical contact with a child to constitute sexual abuse.  Exposure to pornography, forced observation of sexual acts, exposing oneself to a child, surreptitious photographing of children – all of these are classified as sexual abuse.

Signs of Sexual Abuse:

  • Excessive masturbation in young children
  • Sexual knowledge which exceeds that common for the child’s age
  • Pregnancy in young adolescents
  • Rectal or genital bleeding, itching, swelling, bruising
  • Depression, suicidal gestures
  • Sudden avoidance of certain familiar adults or places
  • Frequent unexplained sore throats, yeast or urinary infections
  • Bed wetting
  • Encopresis



Chronic failure to provide the child with adequate food, clothing, medical care, shelter, supervision, support, attention, or affection.  Neglect is defined as treatment that causes substantial risk of harm to the child’s health or welfare.  Even leaving small articles on the floor that a toddler could choke on can be considered neglect.

Signs of Neglect:

  • Height and weight significantly below age level
  • Inappropriate clothing for weather
  • Untreated illness or injury
  • Lack of necessary medical/dental care
  • Begging or stealing food
  • Chronic hunger
  • Assumes adult responsibilities
  • Repeated acts of vandalism
  • Running away from home

Get Help

If you are in imminent danger, please call 9-1-1. If you or someone you know has reasonable belief that a child is being abused or neglected, please call the toll-free Child Abuse Hotline (for anywhere in Arizona): 1-888-767-2445, and call your local law enforcement agency to make a report. If you are looking for support, need help with safety planning, or want help to heal and recover from the trauma of domestic violence or sexual assault, please contact us at (928) 775-0669 and ask to speak to an advocate. You are not alone. We are here to help.