What Classes as Neglect of a Child?

It’s important to spot the signs of neglect and abuse of a child in order to try and put a stop to it as quickly as possible. In this article, we’ll look at what forms of neglect and abuse occur and how to spot them.

Neglect and child abuse is not always easy to spot. We often perceive child neglect as something that’s visible and obvious, but a child can manage to hide a lot when manipulated to stay quiet about such things.

Neglect is defined as ‘failing to care for properly’, so if a parent or guardian is failing to meet the needs and care for a child it should be reported on. Often enough, signs of neglect are picked up within schools by teachers and family members of a child perhaps who don’t have them full time. 

If you suspect a child is facing neglect at home you can talk to teachers to raise the issue, or receive help from child law solicitors in Winchester and surrounding areas in South England. So, what are the different kinds of neglect and how do we spot it? Let’s delve in…  

What is Child Neglect? 

Many people associate child neglect with violent behaviour shown towards a child, but this isn’t always the case. Child neglect can mean children are left to fend for themselves in terms of sourcing their basic needs such as food, water, and warmth. 

Child neglect can look as if a child is not taking any packed lunch to school and even walking themselves there without a parent. This inability to provide for a child, without giving them love and affection every day is recognised as a form of abuse and is one of the easiest signs to spot. 

Signs of Child Neglect

A child that’s neglected will mostly likely show signs outwardly, most noticeably in their physical appearance. The usual signs often include: 

  • Not attending school as no means on transportation 
  • Scruffy, unkempt hair and clothes
  • Poor hygiene 
  • Underweight 
  • Anxious demeanour
  • Attempting to steal other children’s food

A neglected child is also likely to display signs through their mental abilities, as abuse and neglect can impair a child’s cognitive development. As we know, children need to be fed properly in order to develop without issues.

What Classes as Child Abuse?

Of course, the typical signs of neglect are not the only measure of child abuse or neglect. There’s also physical, sexual, and mental abuse to be aware of. Some of the most common signs that a child is being abused includes: 

  • Anxiety 
  • Skittishness
  • Lack of social skills
  • Running Away
  • Changes in behaviour 
  • Personality changes 

Physical Abuse 

Physical abuse is the typical form of abuse we associate with child abuse. This is when an abuser physically harms a child by punching, kicking, or throwing them around. Such acts can cause cuts, bruising, broken bones and, in the worst cases, can end up hospitalising or killing them. 

Physical Abuse Signs to Look Out For 

Signs of physical abuse can be difficult to spot, especially as children are so prone to bumps and scrapes generally. It can be hard to know if marks on skin are a cause for concern. 

However, it’s worth recognising where the marks and bruises are. Below the knee, for example, is a common place for children to have cuts, but if they’re in more sensitive areas this could be a red flag. Some of these softer areas could include the face, upper or lower arms, back and abdomen. 

Sexual Abuse 

Sexual abuse affects 1 in 20 UK children. It can range from forcing children into sexual acts within a home, to children being sex trafficked and forced into situations, often with strangers for money.

Sexual Abuse Signs to Look Out For

Sexual assault is extremely difficult to spot, as the abuser usually will not want to leave any trace of evidence. Physical signs are unlikely to be present and children may not be able to vocalise what’s happening due to a lack of understanding of the situation.

That said, sexual abuse often leaves emotional scarring, so a change in behaviour is the most obvious sign of abuse. A child may become withdrawn, clingy, and aggressive which is often a common result of abuse at home. Other signs can also include:

  • Trouble sleeping
  • Wetting the bed
  • Experiencing nightmares 
  • Outrightly avoiding the abuser
  • Losing focus in school

In extreme cases, a child may experience signs of an STI or even pregnancy. 

Emotional Abuse 

Emotional abuse is any type of abuse that involves continual emotional mistreatment of a child. It often involves deliberately trying to humiliate, isolate, scare, or ignore a child. There are many examples of how someone can be emotionally abusive towards a child and is often the most common form of abuse that can go unnoticed. 

Emotional Abuse Signs to Look Out For

Emotional abuse can massively affect a child’s emotional and cognitive development, especially if the abuse has been occurring over a long period of time. Some signs to look out for include:

  • A child is unconfident or has a lack of self-assurance
  • Struggles to deal with their emotions 
  • Has difficulty making or maintaining friendships
  • Acts inappropriately for their age

What To Do If a Child Reveals Abuse

If you suspect strongly that a child is experiencing physical, emotional or sexual abuse, it’s important to report it straight away. If a child reveals to you they’re experiencing abuse, then you should do the following:

  • Listen carefully to what they’re saying
  • Let them know they’ve done the right thing by telling you
  • Tell them it’s not their fault
  • Say you’ll take them seriously
  • Explain what you’ll do next
  • Report what the child has told you as soon as possible.

Do you have any experience dealing with child abuse? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Please be advised that this article is for general informational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for advice from a trained legal professional. Be sure to consult a lawyer/solicitor if you’re seeking advice on matters involving child abuse. We are not liable for risks or issues associated with using or acting upon the information on this site.

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