Child abuse and neglect causes trauma, which can impair brain development and is linked to physical, emotional, and behavioral issues later in life. Understanding the symptoms and risk factors for child maltreatment can help child welfare professionals and others identify and build on families’ strengths and natural supports to prevent and mitigate maltreatment and keep children safe. 

Child neglect is the most common form of child maltreatment and happens when a parent or caregiver does not provide poverty does not equal neglect. Child abuse is an act by a parent or caregiver that results in or risks serious harm to a child.

All families experience stress. When multiple stressors (or risk factors) build up in families, children have a greater likelihood of experiencing maltreatment. Other conditions or attributes in families, called protective factors, may lessen the likelihood of child maltreatment. Positive childhood experiences may reduce the long-term impacts of trauma, build resilience in children, and help families heal.

Use these resources to learn about child abuse and neglect.

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