Module 5 

Section 3

Signs and Symptoms of Abuse and neglect

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Signs and symptoms of abuse and neglect

The warning signs and symptoms of child abuse and neglect can vary from child to child. Disabled children may be especially vulnerable to abuse, as they may have an impaired capacity to resist or avoid abuse. They may also have speech, language and communication needs which could make it difficult to tell others what is happening. ​



Children also develop and mature at different rates so what appears to be worrying for a younger child might be normal behaviour for an older child. Parental behaviours may also indicate child abuse or neglect, so you should also be alert to parent-child interactions which are concerning and other parental behaviours. This could include parents who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol or if there is a sudden change in their mental health. 

Did you know?

A warning sign does not automatically mean a child is being abused

Signs that might be indicators of abuse or neglect

Children whose behaviour changes – they may become aggressive, challenging, disruptive, withdrawn or clingy, or they might have difficulty sleeping or start wetting the bed;

Children with clothes which are ill-fitting and/or dirty

Children with consistently poor hygiene

Children who make strong efforts to avoid specific family members or friends, without an obvious reason

Children who don’t want to change clothes in front of others or participate in physical activities

Children who are having problems at school, for example, a sudden lack of concentration and learning or they appear to be tired and hungry

Children who talk about being left home alone, with inappropriate carers or with stranger

Children who reach developmental milestones, such as learning to speak or walk, late, with no medical reason​

 Children who are reluctant to go home after school

Children who are regularly missing from school or education

Children with poor school attendance and punctuality, or who are consistently late being picked up

Parents who are dismissive and non-responsive to practitioners’ concerns

Parents who collect their children from school when drunk, or under the influence of drugs

Children who drink alcohol regularly from an early age

Children who are concerned for younger siblings without explaining why

Children who talk about running away

Children who shy away from being touched or flinch at sudden movements

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