Child Abuse & Neglect


Child abuse is any action by another person that causes significant harm to a child.

There are many different forms of abuse including domestic abuse, bullying and cyberbullying, child sexual exploitation, female genital mutilation (FGM), child trafficking, physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse and neglect.

Abuse can happen to any child or young person, regardless of their age, gender, race or ability. Abusers are usually known to, and trusted by, the child and family and they can be adults, male or female, or another young person.

An abused child will often experience more than one type of abuse, as well as other difficulties in their lives. It often happens over a period of time, rather than being a one-off event.

Physical Abuse

Physical abuse is deliberately hurting a child causing injuries such as burns, cuts, bruises and broken bones by:

  • Hitting

  • Kicking

  • Slapping

  • Throwing things at them

Fabricated or Induced Illness (FII) is also physical abuse and occurs when parents or carers make up or cause the symptoms of illness in their child. They may also give them medicine they don’t need.

Emotional Abuse

This type of abuse can seriously damage a child’s emotional health and development, damage self-esteem and severely affect friendships, school and home life.

Children who are emotionally abused are often suffering another type of abuse or neglect at the same time, but this isn’t always the case.

Examples of emotional abuse include:

  • Being made to feel worthless, wrong or unhappy

  • Being unfairly blamed

  • Being bullied

  • Being made to feel scared or in danger

  • Being humiliated

  • Being isolated or ignored

  • Seeing or hearing domestic violence within the home

Sexual Abuse

This is when a child or young person is told, asked, or forced to take part in sexual activity. This doesn’t have to be physical contact and can also happen online. Sometimes the child may not understand that it is wrong and that what is happening to them is abuse.

The ways in which a young person can be sexually abused include:

  • Making them do sexual things either to themselves or with other people

  • Taking photos of them or making them take part in the making of films that involve sexual activity

  • Making them watch sexual behaviour

Let's Stop Abuse Together - spot the signs - a resource for Parents and Carers


Neglect is when parents or carers can’t or won’t meet a child’s needs. Sometimes this is because they don’t have the skills or support needed, and sometimes it’s due to other problems such as mental health issues, drug and alcohol problems or poverty.

A neglected child may be left hungry or dirty, with no adequate shelter or supervision and may also be suffering from other abuse as well. They may be put in danger or not protected from physical or emotional harm.

Neglect is dangerous and can cause serious, long-lasting effects. It can affect physical, cognitive and emotional development, behaviour and opportunities.

Neglect can be anything from leaving a child home alone to the worst case scenario where a child dies from malnutrition or being denied the care they need.

Signs of Child Abuse

The signs of child abuse are not always obvious but the NSPCC has some helpful information to help you spot the signs, symptoms and effects of child abuse.

Are you worried about a child?

If you are worried about a child please see our Concerned? page for details of how to get help.

Protocol for the Investigation of Child Abuse

Are you worried about how someone you know behaves around children?

Stop it Now! UK and Ireland is a child sexual abuse prevention campaign. It is run by The Lucy Faithfull Foundation, the only UK-wide child protection charity dedicated solely to reducing the risk of children being sexually abused.

For free confidential advice please contact them:

Telephone: 0808 1000 900


Further Information and Help