Definitions of Child Abuse and Neglect - Mississippi

Date: May 2022

Physical Abuse

Citation: Ann. Code § 43-21-105

'Abused child' means a child whose parent, guardian, custodian, or any person responsible for their care or support, regardless of whether they are legally obligated to do so, has caused or allowed to be caused upon the child nonaccidental physical injury or other maltreatment. The term 'abused child' also means a child who is or has been trafficked within the meaning of the Mississippi Human Trafficking Act by any person, without regard to the relationship of the person to the child.


Citation: Ann. Code § 43-21-105

'Neglected child' means a child to whom any of the following apply:

  • Whose parent, guardian, custodian, or any person responsible for their care or support neglects or, when able to do so, refuses to provide proper and necessary care or support; education as required by law; or medical, surgical, or other care necessary for their well-being
  • Who is otherwise without proper care, custody, supervision, or support
  • Who, for any reason, lacks the special care made necessary for them by reason of their mental condition, whether said mental condition be mentally retarded or mentally ill
  • Who, for any reason, lacks the care necessary for their health, morals, or well-being

Sexual Abuse/Exploitation

Citation: Ann. Code § 43-21-105

The term 'abused child' includes sexual abuse, sexual exploitation, or commercial sexual exploitation.

'Sexual abuse' means obscene or pornographic photographing, filming, or depiction of children for commercial purposes or the rape, molestation, incest, prostitution, or other such forms of sexual exploitation of children under circumstances that indicate that the child's health or welfare is harmed or threatened.

'Commercial sexual exploitation' means any sexual act or crime of a sexual nature, which is committed against a child for financial or economic gain, to obtain a thing of value for quid pro quo exchange of property, or for any other purpose.

Emotional Abuse

Citation: Ann. Code § 43-21-105

The term 'abused child' includes emotional abuse or mental injury.


This issue is not addressed in the statutes reviewed.

Standards for Reporting

Citation: Ann. Code § 43-21-353

A report is required when a mandatory reporter has reasonable cause to suspect that a child is abused, neglected, or a victim of commercial sexual exploitation or human trafficking.

Persons Responsible for the Child

Citation: Ann. Code § 43-21-105

Responsible persons include the following:

  • A parent, guardian, or custodian
  • 'Any person responsible for care or support,' which refers to the person who is providing for the child at a given time, including, but not limited to, stepparents, foster parents, relatives, nonlicensed babysitters or other similar persons responsible for a child, and staff of residential care facilities and group homes licensed by the Department of Human Services or Department of Child Protection Services


Citation: Ann. Code § 43-21-105

A parent who withholds medical treatment from any child who in good faith is under treatment by spiritual means alone through prayer, in accordance with the tenets and practices of a recognized church or religious denomination by a duly accredited practitioner thereof, shall not, for that reason alone, be considered neglectful.

Physical discipline, including spanking, performed on a child by a parent, guardian, or custodian in a reasonable manner shall not be deemed abuse under this section.