Treatment for child abuse and neglect is a type of treatment that helps children deal with the results of abusive behavior towards them. Child abuse and neglect can have both emotional and physical symptoms that each require their own special kind of treatment.
Child abuse and neglect can take several forms. The treatment provided will depend on the type of abuse experienced. In general, the main types of child abuse include:
- Physical abuse. Physical abuse is when a child receives a physical injury that is not an accident from anyone who oversees their care. It does not have to be from a parent.
- Emotional abuse. Emotional abuse occurs when a parent or caregiver acts in ways that damage a child’s sense of self-worth.
- Sexual abuse. Sexual abuse is when a parent or caregiver exposes a child to sexual behavior.
- Neglect. This type of abuse is the failure of a child’s parent or caretaker to provide for basic needs like food, shelter, or health care. Neglect may be:
- Physical. Physical neglect includes the failure to provide adequate supervision, food, shelter, or safety.
- Medical. Medical neglect includes the failure to provide necessary healthcare.
- Educational. Educational neglect includes when a parent or guardian fails to provide a child with proper schooling and education.
- Emotional. Emotional neglect includes discounting or discouraging a child’s feelings.
- Providing inadequate supervision. Inadequate supervision includes leaving a child alone if they can’t take care of themselves, or leaving a child in the care of an inappropriate or inadequate caregiver.
- Exposing a child to violent situations. Children can be exposed to violent situations if they witness domestic violence at home or violence portrayed in the media.
Child abuse and neglect can have a lifelong impact on victims. Abused and neglected children are more likely to have:
- Learning delays
- Emotional problems
- Poor self-esteem
- Health problems
- Substance misuse problems
- Adult criminal behavior
Signs of abuse and neglect may not be immediately noticeable. Anyone who spends time with a child should watch for certain signs and symptoms:
Signs of physical abuse
Physical abuse is when a child receives physical injury that is not an accident. For example:
- Punching, beating, kicking
- Biting, shaking, throwing
- Stabbing, choking, hitting
The result of these injuries is usually visible on the child. The child may also wear clothes to cover up the injuries, like long sleeve shirts in summer, or be scared to go home. They may also abuse animals or pets.
Signs that a parent may know about or be the cause abuse include:
- Having a hard time explaining their child’s injury
- Having a history of being abused as a child or of abusing pets or animals
- Talking to or about their child in a hurtful or negative way
Signs of emotional abuse
Emotional abuse occurs when the parent or caregiver of a child prevents them from having a positive sense of self-worth. Emotional abuse is hard to prove and often occurs with another kind of abuse. Signs of emotional abuse in the child may include:
- Attempted suicide
- Extreme behavior (very passive or very active)
- Actions that seem too old or too young for their age
- Lack of attachment to the parent
Signs that a parent may know about or be the cause of emotional abuse may include:
- Harsh rejection of the child
- Blaming or insulting the child often
- Lack of concern about the child’s problems
Signs of sexual abuse
Sexual abuse is when a parent or caregiver exposes a child to sexual acts, images, or behavior. The child may:
- Have a hard time walking or sitting
- Refuse to change clothes for gym
- Report scary dreams or wet the bed
- Know more about sex or sexual behavior than they should
- Run away
- Attach quickly to adults or strangers
Signs that a parent may know about or be the cause of sexual abuse include:
- Being secretive and isolating the child
- Being overprotective or limiting their child’s contact with children of the other gender
- Appearing jealous or manipulative
Signs of neglect
Neglect is when a parent or caregiver fails to provide for the basic needs of the child. Signs of neglect may include the following:
- The parent or caregiver leaving a child
- The child not having enough food
- The child lacking medical care
- The child not getting help with special needs
- The parent failing to provide for emotional needs
Signs that a parent may know about or be the cause of neglect include:
- Carelessness or apathy concerning their child’s needs
- Misuse of alcohol or other drugs
- Senseless behavior
- Depression or carelessness regarding their own life or health
Any kind of child abuse and neglect can cause lifelong physical and emotional problems. But with the right kind of treatment, the child can learn how to deal with their past.
If you notice a problem with your child’s health, emotions, or behaviors, seek treatment as soon as possible. If you suspect child abuse or neglect, contact your local child protective services agency or police department to file a report.
The treatment for child abuse and neglect depends on the type of abuse. The first priority is creating a safe environment for the child, which may mean contacting social services or law enforcement so that the child can be taken to a safe place. Once the child is safe, mental health professionals and/or a physician will figure out the best type of therapy.
Therapy can help children understand their thoughts and feelings so they can learn to cope with the aftermath of abuse. There are different types of therapy, such as:
- Developmental therapy. This type of therapy deals with the way a child grows and the way that growth has been changed or blocked by abuse.
- Intrapersonal therapy. This type of therapy deals with the way the child’s relationships have been influenced by the abuse.
- Cognitive and behavioral therapy. This type of therapy deals with the way the abused child’s feelings and thoughts have changed their behavior.
Treatment activities may also focus on preventing child abuse and neglect from happening again. Federal, state, and local agencies can help with these efforts by:
- Helping parents and children create stronger bonds
- Informing parents about good parenting techniques
- Teaching parents to be emotionally tough
- Creating stronger social and community connections
- Supporting parents who are struggling
Helping children learn better social and emotional skills