Abuse may be physical, sexual, or emotional. Abuse may also take the form of neglect. Remember, some behaviors that are found with abuse may also be found with other conditions. The behaviors listed below may signal child abuse or neglect; however, they may also be seen in children who have not been abused or neglected.

Behaviors that may be telling you about abuse or neglect:

  • Behavior worsens around certain people
  • Refuses to go home or to certain locations
  • Inappropriate sexual knowledge or behavior for age, developmental stage
  • Dislikes physical contact, such as pats, hugs--or is affectionate toward everyone, including strangers
  • Begs for, steals, or hoards food
  • Runs away from home or school
  • Develops delinquent behaviors
  • Shows little emotion when hurt
  • Self-destructive behavior
  • Sleep disorders, nightmares, insomnia
  • Wetting or bowel accidents
  • Is overly:
    • Shy, withdrawn, passive
    • Dependent, clings to caregiver
    • Polite, or rude
    • Nervous, disruptive, and angry
    • Neat, or messy

Other factors that may indicate the presence of abuse or neglect:

  • Recurring skin rash, injuries (bite marks, burns, bald spots, broken bones, bruises) of unknown cause
  • Certain patterns of injury or bruising--your health care provider can talk with you about these
  • Always hungry, swollen stomach
  • Pain with urinating or having a bowel movement
  • Blood in the urine or stool
  • Warts in the genital area
  • Vaginal bleeding or discharge
  • Frequent urinary tract or genital yeast infections
  • Lack of reasonable medical care; untreated ulcers, asthma, diabetes, severe allergies
  • Poor hygiene

Do you think someone's behavior may be telling you about abuse? Talk with your doctor or other health care provider. They can work with you to learn whether this is the case.