Child abuse can have a very significant impact on children’s development and on their ability to function, the repercussions of which can continue into adulthood. Abuse adversely affects the development of children’s brains, as well as their physical development. During childhood, the brain is characterised by enormous plasticity, so young children are more easily damaged. In very young children, abuse prevents them from establishing a secure attachment relationship with their parents, which severely impairs their general social abilities in later life.
The following is a summary of the types of child abuse and neglect, but definitions may vary. The types of child abuse and neglect are usually found in combination rather than alone.
Child physical abuse is an injury to a child or adolescent by a parent or other caregiver after intentional physical contact.
Child sexual abuse is any form of sexual activity with a child or adolescent in which consent is not or cannot be provided e.g., significant disparity in age, development or size.
Emotional or psychological abuse is assumed to be present in all other forms of abuse. It consists of any attitude or behaviour which interferes with a child’s mental health or social development.
Neglect, is defined by the absence of specific events. The five types of neglect are physical, emotional, medical, mental health, and educational neglect.
Early identification and treatment is important to avoid or minimize the long term consequences of abuse. Through treatment the abused child is helped to regain a sense of self-esteem and trust, and the family learns new ways of support and communication.