physical child abuse

Often, physically abusive parents and caregivers claim that their actions are just forms of discipline – ways to make a child learn to behave. But, twisting a child’s arm until it breaks is not discipline – it is abuse. Physical abuse can include striking a child with the hand, fist, and foot or with an object, burning, shaking, pushing, or throwing a child; pinching or biting a child, pulling a child by the hair or cutting off a child’s airway.

Signs of physical child abuse may include:

  • Physical signs: Usually, physical abuse has clear warning signs, like unexplained bruises, welts, or cuts. All children will take a tumble now and then, but warning signs to watch for include age-inappropriate injuries, injuries that appear to have a pattern such as marks from a hand or belt, or a pattern of severe injuries. Often, multiple bruises in different stages of healing can be another sign of physical abuse.
  • Behavioral signs: At times, signs of physical abuse may be more inconspicuous. The child may be overly fearful, shy away from touch or be afraid to go home. A child wearing inappropriate clothing for the weather, such as heavy, long sleeved pants and shirts on hot days, may be a sign that physical injuries are being covered up.
  • Caregiver signs: Physically abusive caregivers may have trouble controlling their anger and have an excessive need for control. Their explanation for a child’s injury might not ring true, or may be different from an older child’s description of how the injury occurred.