There are varying types of child abuse and neglect, each with its own unique characteristics. Children also may experience the co-occurrence of multiple forms of maltreatment, such as physical, sexual, and emotional abuse and neglect, which together may affect them to a greater extent.
Poverty and circumstances stemming from poverty can often be interpreted as neglect. Because poverty disproportionally affects communities of color, it is important to be aware of racial inequities within the child welfare system. Families of color are more likely to be investigated for child maltreatment, and children of color are more likely to be removed from their homes and placed in out-of-home care. Understanding the causes of disproportionality, including racial bias and socioeconomic and systemic factors, can help responders more accurately address different types of child abuse and neglect.
The following resources offer information and guidance on responding effectively to suspected child abuse and/or neglect.
Interventions for Neglect
California Evidence-Based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare
Links to interventions for neglect that have been rated on a scientific scale of evidence-based practice.
FRIENDS National Center for Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention (2021)
Outlines the issue of child neglect and reviews promising approaches and strategies to address it, including prevention programs.
Poverty and Neglect Are Not the Same – It’s Time to Realign Our Response
American Public Human Services Association
Presents a discussion of poverty and neglect in the child welfare system and the need to acknowledge the impact of poverty on families and respond appropriately.
Spotlight on Knowing the Difference Between Poverty and Neglect
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Children’s Bureau
Children’s Bureau Express, 20(10)
Highlights the importance of differentiating between poverty and neglect when responding to child maltreatment and shares resources relating to the intersection of poverty and neglect.
Abusive Head Trauma in Infants and Children
Narang, Fingarson, & Lukefahr (2020)
Describes abusive head trauma, especially in young infants, and reviews the history of the problem, presentation and evaluation, diagnosis, outcomes, and more.
Do Sentinel Injuries Predict Later Physical Abuse in Infants?
Casey Family Programs (2020)
Offers a summary of a research article that showed how sentinel injuries, such as bruising and injuries inside the mouth, in infants should raise concern as they may indicate an elevated risk of more severe abuse in the future.
National Child Traumatic Stress Network
Includes resources on the nature, prevalence, and impact of physical abuse and offers information on its prevention and treatment. Furthermore, the Interventions section offers suggestions for different approaches used to help current victims or those at risk of becoming victims of physical abuse.
Signs of Child Physical Abuse
Explores signs of physical abuse in children that may indicate a need for investigation. The webpage also reviews parent or caregiver behavior indicating a child maltreatment response.
Child Sexual Abuse
Focuses on child sexual abuse and the potential warning signs that it may be occurring.
Responding to Child Sexual Abuse
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (2020)
Provides practical guidance to share with families on what to say and what steps to take when child sexual abuse is suspected.
Stop It Now!
Focuses on creating and disseminating effective programs, support, and resources to mobilize adults into taking action to prevent and stop the sexual abuse of children.
Tip Sheet: Signs That a Child or Teen May Be At-Risk to Harm Another Child
Stop It Now!
Offers a printable handout with bullet points for helping to identify possible signs that a child or teen is at risk of harming another child.
Child Emotional and Psychological Abuse
Reviews emotional and psychological abuse of children and describes signs of abuse, how to report it, information for parents, the long-term effects of this type of abuse, and more.
Indicators of Emotional Child Abuse
American Society for the Positive Care of Children
Defines emotional abuse of children and reviews behavioral indicators of this type of abuse in parents and in children.
Practice Guidelines for Investigating Suspected Psychological Maltreatment
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Children’s Bureau (2018)
Children’s Bureau Express, 19(7)
Discusses a set of practice guidelines for child welfare professionals to use in cases of emotional or psychological maltreatment. The resource includes definitions of different forms of psychological abuse along with information on its prevalence, effects, considerations for investigators, and how to assess this type of abuse.
What Is Emotional Child Abuse?
Presents an overview of emotional child abuse and reviews signs, traits of those who commit psychological abuse, different types of emotional abuse, risk factors, impact, and treatment.