Signs of Child Abuse & Neglect

The information on this webpage is from the
Virginia Department of Social Services
For more in-depth
information on signs of child abuse and neglect, click here. 

Physical Abuse Indicators

• Unexplained bruises or burns on face, torso, back, buttocks, thighs

• Multiple injuries in various stages of healing

• Bruises/welts resembling instrument used e.g belt, cord

• Human bite marks

• Injuries regularly appearing after absence, weekend, etc.

• Unexplained fractures, lacerations, abrasions


Behavioral Indicators

• Reports injury by caretaker

• Uncomfortable with physical contact

• Complains of soreness or moves uncomfortably

• Wears clothing inappropriate to weather (to cover body)

• Afraid to go home

• May be a chronic runaway (adolescents)

• Behavior extremes (withdrawn, aggressive)

• Apprehensive when other children cry

Physical Neglect

• Consistent hunger, poor hygiene

• Unattended physical problems or medical needs

• Consistent lack of supervision

• Abandonment

• Reports no caretaker at home

• Begs, steals food

• Frequently absent or tardy

• Constant fatigue, listlessness, or falling asleep in class

• Extended stays at school  (early arrival and late departure)

• Shunned by peers

Sexual Abuse

• Sexually transmitted disease (pre-teens)

• Pregnancy

• Difficulty walking or sitting

• Pain or itching in genital area

• Torn, stained, or bloody underclothing

• Bruises/bleeding in external genitalia

• Reports sexual abuse

• Highly sexualized play

• Detailed, age inappropriate understanding of sexual behavior

• Role reversal, overly concerned for siblings

• Exhibits delinquent behavior

• May attempt suicide or other self-injury behavior

• May have eating disorders

• Deterioration in academic performance

Mental Abuse & Neglect

• May have frequent stomach aches, head aches or unexplained
   weight fluctuations

• May have speech disorders

• May lag in physical development

• May have a non-organic, failure-to-thrive medical diagnosis

• May have learning problems

• Exhibits age inappropriate behaviors such as thumb sucking, biting,
   head banging or rocking

• Exhibits extreme behaviors such as over compliance, passivity,
    aggression, or withdrawal

• Exhibits emotional or intellectual developmental delays

• Exhibits cruel behavior or may seem to get pleasure from hurting others
   and/or animals

• May abuse alcohol or drugs

• May have eating disorders



Each year in Virginia, more than 50,000 children are reported to local social services departments for suspected child abuse or neglect.  Abuse and neglect of children occurs within families and in other settings where children are provided care or services. These settings include schools, residential facilities, day care centers/homes, and recreational or sporting programs.

Recognizing and reporting suspected child abuse and neglect are first steps toward ensuring the safety and well-being of children.

Click here to view the brochure with this information and more.  

A combination or pattern of indicators should alert you to the possibility of maltreatment. Indicators
should be considered together with

the explanation provided, the

child’s developmental and physical capabilities, and behavior changes.