Physical abuse is one of the most common forms of child abuse. It occurs when a person close to the child deliberately commits an act that results in a physical injury to the child. These injuries can have serious, long-lasting effects and can sometimes cause death. This page provides resources for the community, professionals, and families to identify the signs and symptoms of physical abuse.
Behavioral and Emotional Indicators of Physical Abuse (PDF - 109 KB)
Kansas Department for Children and Families (2017)
Discusses the variables that affect a child's response to abuse and the effects of abuse on a child's development.
Early Identification and Initial Management of Child Physical Abuse (PDF - 1,300 KB)
Provides information on recognizing and identifying physical abuse and abusive head trauma. The webinar also stresses the importance of performing a comprehensive medical exam on children who are suspected victims of abuse.
The Evaluation of Suspected Child Physical Abuse
American Academy of Pediatrics, 135(5)
Provides guidance for pediatricians regarding indicators and evaluation of suspected physical abuse. Specific signs of abuse are described, and issues pertaining to assessment, diagnosis, documentation, treatment, and legal issues are discussed.
Indicators of Child Physical Abuse
South Eastern Centre Against Sexual Assault and Family Violence
Offers many possible physical and behavioral indicators of physical child abuse, including information about disclosures.
Indicators of Physical Abuse
Describes behaviors of adults and children that may be indicators of physical abuse.
Pediatric Physical Abuse Recognition and Management [Podcast]
Coombs & Holland (2018)
Emergency Medicine Cases
Teaches the factors and indicators that may be suggestive of physical abuse.
Kids Matter Inc. (2016)
Provides a definition of physical abuse and common physical and emotional signs.
Physical Abuse of Children
Glick, Lorand, & Bilka (2016)
Pediatrics in Review, 37(4)
Outlines signs of "sentinel injury," which is an unusual injury for the age of the child that can be a sign of major trauma. Specific signs of trauma are described, and which evaluations may be necessary and information on a physician’s legal obligation to report suspected physical abuse are discussed.
Physical Child Abuse
American Society for the Positive Care of Children (2018)
Provides free educational resources to raise awareness of the types and indicators of abuse and increase advocacy efforts.
Recognizing When a Child’s Injury or Illness Is Caused by Abuse (PDF - 1,320 KB)
U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency
Informs first responders and investigators about the many indicators of child maltreatment and abuse to help differentiate between abuse and accidental injury.
Stanford University School of Medicine (2017)
Offers tips on interviewing children about suspected child abuse
Child Welfare Information Gateway
Download (PDF - 257KB)
Versión para imprimir (PDF - 312KB)
Consensus Statement on Abuse Head Trauma in Infants and Young Children
Choudhary, Servaes, Slovis, Palusci, Helund, Narang, Moreno, et al. (2018)
Pediatric Radiology, 48
Identifies tools to be used during legal proceedings when judges and jurors are evaluating clinical findings, medical evidence, and evidence-based literature.
National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome
Promotes the safety and well-being of infants through the development and implementation of programs and policy and provides support and education for families and professionals.
Pediatric Abusive Head Trauma (Shaken Baby Syndrome)
Joyce & Heucker (2019)
Reviews the details and outcomes of abusive head trauma to help professionals recognize the signs and symptoms of a child that has injuries as a result of violent shaking or blunt impact.
Preventing Abusive Head Trauma in Children
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2019)
Explains the facts of abusive head trauma and how it can be prevented. The webpage also provides additional resources for families.
Shaken Baby Syndrome
Describes the symptoms and warning signs of injury from shaken baby syndrome.
Understanding Abusive Head Trauma in Infants and Children: Answers from America's Pediatricians (PDF - 560 KB)
American Academy of Pediatricians (2017)
Defines "abusive head trauma" as inflicted head injuries most often caused by caregivers. This policy statement describes the injuries that lead to the diagnosis of abusive head trauma and the role of child protective services in protecting children who sustain this life-threatening abuse.