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530 S. Lawrence Street | Montgomery, AL  36104
Phone 334.262.7378

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Child Abuse - Signs/Symptoms


A child who's being abused may feel guilty, ashamed or confused. He or she may be afraid to tell anyone about the abuse, especially if the abuser is a parent, other relative or family friend. In fact, the child may have an apparent fear of parents, adult caregivers or family friends. That's why it's vital to watch for red flags, such as:

Withdrawal from friends or usual activities

Changes in behavior — such as aggression, anger, hostility or hyperactivity — or changes in school performance

Shows sudden changes in behavior or school performance

Has not received help for physical or medical problems brought to the parents’ attention

Has learning problems (or difficulty concentrating) that cannot be attributed to specific physical or psychological causes.

Is always watchful, as though preparing for something bad to happen

Lacks adult supervision

Is overly compliant, passive, or withdrawn

Comes to school or other activities early, stays late, and/or does not want to go home

Depression, anxiety or unusual fears or a sudden loss of self-confidence

An apparent lack of supervision

Frequent absences from school or reluctance to ride the school bus

Reluctance to leave school activities, as if he or she doesn't want to go home

Attempts at running away

Rebellious or defiant behavior

Attempts at suicide

Specific signs and symptoms depend on the type of abuse and can vary. Keep in mind that warning signs are just that — warning signs. The presence of warning signs doesn't necessarily mean that a child is being abused.

Physical abuse signs and symptoms

Unexplained injuries, such as bruises, fractures or burns

Injuries that don't match the given explanation

Untreated medical or dental problems

Sexual abuse signs and symptoms

Sexual behavior or knowledge that's inappropriate for the child's age

Pregnancy or a sexually transmitted infection

Blood in the child's underwear

Statements that he or she was sexually abused

Trouble walking or sitting or complaints of genital pain

Abuse of other children sexually

Emotional abuse signs and symptoms

Delayed or inappropriate emotional development

Loss of self-confidence or self-esteem

Social withdrawal or a loss of interest or enthusiasm


Headaches or stomachaches with no medical cause

Avoidance of certain situations, such as refusing to go to school or ride the bus

Desperately seeks affection

A decrease in school performance or loss of interest in school

Loss of previously acquired developmental skills

Neglect signs and symptoms

Poor growth or weight gain

Poor hygiene

Lack of clothing or supplies to meet physical needs

Taking food or money without permission

Eating a lot in one sitting or hiding food for later

Poor record of school attendance

Lack of appropriate attention for medical, dental or psychological problems or lack of necessary follow-up care

Emotional swings that are inappropriate or out of context to the situation


Parental behavior

Sometimes a parent's demeanor or behavior sends red flags about child abuse. Warning signs include a parent who:

Shows little concern for the child

Appears unable to recognize physical or emotional distress in the child

Denies that any problems exist at home or school, or blames the child for the problems

Consistently blames, belittles or berates the child and describes the child with negative terms, such as "worthless" or "evil"

Asks teachers or other caregivers to use harsh physical discipline if the child misbehaves

See the child as entirely bad, worthless, or burdensome

Looks primarily to the child for care, attention and satisfaction of emotional needs

Expects the child to provide him or her with attention and care and seems jealous of other family members getting attention from the child

Uses harsh physical discipline or asks teachers to do so

Demands an inappropriate level of physical or academic performance

Severely limits the child's contact with others

Offers conflicting or unconvincing explanations for a child's injuries or no explanation at all

If you need help

Visit ONE PLACE Family Justice Center at 530 S. Lawrence Street, Montgomery, Alabama or call 334.262.7378 or if you are in immediate danger Call 911.

Source: Internet, Jan. 2018,;


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