Understanding Child Maltreatment

13 February 2015
 Categories: Law, Blog

If you suspect that your relative, friend or neighbor is mistreating their child or children, you ought to step in to defend the rights of the child. You could seek the help of a lawyer to sort out this issue. The following article seeks to help you understand what child maltreatment is all about.

What is Child Maltreatment?

Child maltreatment is any type of cruelty conducted by parents, older adolescents, caregivers and other adults. This behavior entails a risk of causing emotional or physical injury to the child in question.

Types of Child Maltreatment

  • Neglect
  • Physical Abuse
  • Sexual Abuse
  • Emotional Maltreatment


This is failure by the parent to offer their child the culturally accepted conditions that are deemed important for their emotional and physical development and well-being. Behaviors that are neglectful are divided into four main categories:

  • Physical neglect: the parent's failure to offer their child basic necessities like clothing, food, health care and housing
  • Emotional neglect: the parent's failure to offer their child encouragement, support, warmth and nurturance.
  • Educational neglect: the parent's failure to offer appropriate educational opportunities to their child
  • Environmental neglect: the parent's failure to provide environmental safety, resources and opportunities

Physical Abuse

This refers to using physical force that causes harm to a child. Physical abuse does not necessarily need to be intended. For instance, physical punishment that causes bruising would be regarded as physical abuse.

Physical abuse includes behaviors such as hitting, shoving, slapping, throwing, shaking, punching, biting, kicking, strangling, burning and poisoning. The induction or fabrication of an illness also amounts to physical abuse.

Sexual Abuse

This refers to any act that exposes your child to or involves them in sexual encounters that are beyond their understanding or that go against community standards. It is the use of a child by an adult for sexual gratification.

Sexually abusive conduct may include masturbation, fondling of genitals, oral sex, anal or vaginal penetration, fondling of breasts and exposing a child to pornography.

The definition of sexual abuse depends on how the child and adult are related. For instance, sexual behavior that involves members of the family, e.g. parent or uncle, would be considered abusive.

Sexual behavior between adolescents will be considered abusive based on whether it was consensual or whether coercion was involved.

Emotional Maltreatment

This is also called emotional abuse or psychological abuse. It involves a parent's inappropriate symbolic or verbal acts towards their child. It also refers to the consistent failure by a parent to offer their child adequate emotional availability and non-physical nurture. These acts damage a child's self esteem. Emotional maltreatment has five main forms:

  • Rejecting: the parent fails to acknowledge a child's worth and their needs
  • Isolating: the parent prevents the child from ordinary social experiences like forming friendships.
  • Terrorizing: the parent assaults the child verbally, fills them with fear, frightens and bullies the child and leads the child to believe in a world that is hostile and capricious.
  • Ignoring: the parent deprives their child of emotional growth, intellectual development and essential responsiveness and stimulation.
  • Corrupting: the parent stimulates their child to be involved with destructive antisocial behavior.