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Resiliency: Child Abuse

This LibGuide provides materials about child abuse.

Navigating this LibGuide

This LibGuide features materials related to child abuse and neglect. Please see below for instructions on how to navigate this guide:

  • To the left, you will find your main menu, which includes three sections: ProQuest Materials / NC Live Materials / Additional Resources
  • You will find many materials about each topic on their subject page. Each item will have a link that will take you to NC Live or ProQuest.
  • To access the ProQuest Materials, you can either:
    • Type in the e-ISBN in the search bar on your university library's webpage OR
    • Click the title to follow the link directly to the ProQuest Webpage for this item. Use your university single sign on credentials to access the materials.
  • To access Additional Resources:
    • Click on the title/name of the item to load it
  • To Access the NC Live Materials:
    • Go directly to the NC Live website and enter the information on the search bar OR
    • Click the title to follow the link directly to the NC Live Webpage for this item. NC Live will ask you the name of your institution through a drop-down menu. Scroll through the menu until you locate the name of your library. Select the name of your library to to log into NC Live. 

What is Child Abuse and Neglect?

According to the National Children's Alliance (2024) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2022):

  • more than 600,000 children are abused in 2021
  • Child welfare authorities ensure the safety of more than 7 million children
  • The youngest children are the most vulnerable: 15% of cases were under 1 year of age, 28% were less than 2 years old
  • Neglect is the most common form of abuse
    • 76% of victims are neglecter
    • 16% are physically abused
    • 10% are sexually abused 
    • 0.2% are sex trafficked
  • 77% of children reported abuse by a parent
  • 21% of cases every year are child-on-child, meaning that a child reported abusing another child
  • For fiscal year 2022, the national estimate of child fatalities (when a child dies due to abuse or neglect) was 1,990 deaths

Demographics (NCA, 2024; USDHHS, 2022):

  • girls were victimized at a higher rate (8.1 per 1,000 girls) than boys (7.5 per 1000 boys)
  • American Indian or Alaska Native Children have the highest rate of victimization at 15.2 per 1,000 children of the same race or ethnicity
  • African American children have the second-highest rate of victimization at 13.1 per 1,000 children of the same race or ethnicity

According to the Child Welfare Information Gateway (CWIG) (2022), definitions of child abuse and neglect vary depending upon the state in which the maltreatment occurs. States also determine if, and how, child maltreatment is charged and prosecuted. However, there are general definitions outlined by federal statutes. The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) of 2010 defines child abuse and neglect as, "any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caregiver that results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse, or exploitation, or an act or failure to act that presents an imminent risk of serious harm."

While definitions for abuse and neglect can vary by state, it is important to note that there are differences between the two. To learn more about your state's definitions, please visit CWIG's (2024) state statutes search.

It is important to note that multiple forms of maltreatment can coexist at the same time (i.e. the child experiences numerous types of abuse at the same time, multiple types of neglect at the same time, or both abuse and neglect at the same time) (CDC, 2008).

Additional Definitions (Center for Disease Control, 2008):

  • Child - any individual from birth through 17 years of age at the time of maltreatment
  • Caregiver - a person or people who is responsible for the child's overall health and welfare
  • Harm - any acute disruption caused by threatened or actual acts of abuse or neglect to a child's physical, cognitive, or emotional health

General child maltreatment signs include (CWIG, 2019):

  • Child
    • shows sudden behavioral changes
    • shows changes in school performance
    • has not received help for medical/dental/physical issues that have been brought to the parents'/caregivers' attention
    • has learning problems that cannot be attributed to specific causes
    • is always watchful of their surroundings
    • lacks adult supervision
    • is reluctant to be around a certain person
    • is overly compliant, passive, or withdrawn
  • Parent
    • denies the existence of, or blames the child for, the child's problems at school or home
    • asks the teacher or other caregivers to use harsh physical discipline if the child misbehaves
    • sees the child as entirely bad, worthless, or burdensome
    • demands a level of physical or academic performance that the child cannot achieve
    • looks primarily to the child for care, attention, and satisfaction of the parent's emotional needs
    • shows little concern for the child

Child abuse is considered an act of commission by the parent or caregiver, meaning that the acts of abuse are intentional. However, harm to the child may or may not be the intended consequence (Center for Disease Control, 2008). 

The three main types of abuse include (CDC, 2022; CDC, 2008):

  • Physical abuse is the intentional use of physical force that can result in physical injury. Examples include hitting, kicking, shaking, burning, or other shows of force against a child.
  • Sexual abuse involves pressuring or forcing a child to engage in sexual acts or sexual contact including behaviors such as fondling, penetration, and exposing a child to other sexual activities. 
    • Sexual acts can be performed by the caregiver on the child or by the child on the caregiver. A caregiver can also force a child to commit a sexual act on another individual
    • Noncontact sexual abuse does not include physical contact but can include:
      • acts that expose a child to sexual activity
      • filming of a child in a sexual manner
      • sexual harassment of a child
      • prostitution of a child
  • Emotional/Psychological Abuse refers to behaviors that harm a child's self-worth or emotional well-being including name-calling, shaming, rejecting, withholding love, terrorizing, isolating, and threatening.

In 18 States, human trafficking (including labor trafficking, involuntary servitude, or trafficking of minors) is also included in the definition of child abuse (CWIG, 2022).

A child exhibiting the following signs may be a victim of physical abuse (CWIG, 2019):

  • has unexplained injuries (i.e. burns, bites, bruises, broken bones, or black eyes)
  • has fading bruises or other noticeable marks after an absence from school
  • seems scarred, anxious, depressed, withdrawn, or aggressive
  • seems frightened of their parents/caregivers and does not want to go home
  • changes in eating and sleeping habits
  • reports injury by a parent/caregiver
  • abuses animals or pets

A child exhibiting the following signs may be a victim of sexual abuse (CWIG, 2019; American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychology, 2014; Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network [RAINN], 2018a):

  • has difficulty walking or sitting
  • experiences bleeding, bruising in their private parts
  • suddenly refuses to go to school
  • has nightmares or bedwetting
  • sudden change in appetite
  • demonstrates bizarre, sophisticated, or unusual sexual knowledge or behavior
  • becomes pregnant or contracts an STD (if under the age of 14)
  • runs away
  • attaches very quickly to strangers or new adults in their environment
  • reports sexual abuse by a parent, caregiver, or even another child

A child exhibiting the following signs may be a victim of emotional/psychological abuse (CWIG, 2019):

  • shows extremes in behavior
  • is either inappropriately adult (i.e. parenting other children) or inappropriately infantile (i.e. frequently rocking of head banging)
  • delayed physical or emotional development
  • shows signs of depression or suicidal thoughts
  • inability to develop emotional bonds with others

According to the CDC (2022), neglect is the failure to meet a child's basic physical and emotional needs. Whereas abusive actions are intentional, neglect is considered Acts of Omission (CDC, 2008).

Neglect includes (CDC, 2008):

  • Failure to provide
    • physical neglect
      • i.e. lack of nutrition, missing meals, issues with hygiene, housing/shelter, clothing
    • emotional neglect
    • medical/dental neglect
      • i.e. not administering prescribed medications or going to required medical/dental appointments
    • educational neglect
      • i.e. the child misses so many days of school or does not enroll the child in school after the legally required age according to the state in which they reside
  • Failure to supervise
    • inadequate supervision
      • includes occasions where a caregiver fails to ensure the child engages in safe activities
      • caregivers are required to ensure safe substitute supervision for their child
    • exposure to violent environments
  • Abandonment (CWIG, 2019)
    • a child is left alone in circumstances where the child suffers serious harm
    • a child has been deserted with no regards to their safety
    • the parent has failed to maintain contact with the child or provide reasonable support for a specified period of time
    • when the parent's identity or whereabouts are unknown
    • Some states have safe-haven laws that provide safe places (i.e. police department, fire department, hospital) for parents to relinquish newborn infants


American Academy of Adolescent Psychology. (2014). Sexual abuse. AACAP/Families_and_Youth/Facts_for_Families/ FFF-Guide/Child-Sexual-Abuse-009.aspx

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022). Fast facts.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2008). Child maltreatment surveillance: Uniform definitions for public health and recommended data elements.

Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2022), Definitions of child abuse and neglect.

Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2019). What is child abuse and neglect? Recognizing the signs and symptoms.

Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. (2018a). Child sexual abuse. child-sexual-abuse

United States Congress. (2010). CAPTA reauthorization act of 2010.

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