Appendix 2


2.1 Abuse

Below is a description of abuse as defined by the DfE.

A form of maltreatment of a child which involves inflicting harm of failing to act to prevent harm. Children may be abused in a family, institutional or community setting by those known to them, or, more rarely, by others e.g. via the internet.

2.2 Neglect

Neglect is the persistent failure to meet a child’s basic physical and/or psychological needs, likely to result in the serious impairment of the child’s health or development. Neglect may occur during pregnancy as a result of maternal substance abuse. Once a child is born, neglect may involve a parent or carer failing to provide adequate food and clothing, shelter (including exclusion from home or abandonment), failing to protect a child from physical and emotional harm or danger, failure to ensure adequate supervision (including the use of inadequate care-givers), or the failure to ensure access to appropriate medical care of treatment. It may also include neglect of, or unresponsiveness to, a child’s basic emotional needs.

Examples which may indicate neglect (it is not designed to be used as a checklist):

  • Hunger
  • Tiredness or listlessness
  • Child dirty or unkempt
  • Poorly or inappropriately clad for the weather
  • Poor school attendance or often late for school
  • Poor concentration
  • Affection or attention seeking behaviour
  • Untreated illnesses/injuries
  • Pallid complexion Stealing or scavenging compulsively
  • Failure to achieve developmental milestones, for example growth, weight
  • Failure to develop intellectually or socially
  • Neurotic behaviour 

2.3 Physical abuse

Physical abuse may involve hitting, shaking, throwing, poisoning, burning or scalding, drowning, suffocating or otherwise causing physical harm to a child. Physical harm may also be caused when a parent or carer fabricates the symptoms of, or deliberately induces, illness in a chid.

Examples which may indicate physical abuse (it is not designed to be used as a checklist):

  • Patterns of bruising; inconsistent account of how bruising or injuries occurred
  • Finger, hand or nail marks, black eyes
  • Bite marks Round burn marks, burns and scalds
  • Lacerations, wealds
  • Fractures
  • Bald patches
  • Symptoms of drug or alcohol intoxication or poisoning
  • Unaccountable covering of limbs, even in hot weather
  • Fear of going home or parents being contacted
  • Fear of medical help    
  • Fear of changing for PE
  • Inexplicable fear of adults or over-compliance    
  • Violence or aggression towards others including bullying Isolation from peers

2.4 Sexual abuse

Sexual abuse involves forcing or enticing a child or young person to take part in sexual activities, not necessarily involving a high level of violence, whether or not the child is aware of what is happening. The activities may involve physical contact, including assault by penetration (for example, rape or oral sex) or non-penetrative acts such as masturbation, kissing, rubbing and touching outside of clothing. They may include non-contact activities such as involving children in looking at, or in the production of, sexual images, watching sexual activities, encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways or grooming a child in preparation for abuse (including via the internet). Sexual abuse is not solely perpetrated by adult males. Women can also commit acts of sexual abuse, as can other children.

Examples which may indicate sexual abuse (it is not designed to be used as a checklist):

  • Sexually explicit play or behaviour or age-inappropriate knowledge
  • Anal or vaginal discharge, soreness or scratching
  • Reluctance to go home Inability to concentrate, tiredness Refusal to communicate
  • Thrush, persistent complaints of stomach disorders or pains
  • Eating disorders, for example anorexia nervosa and bulimia
  • Attention seeking behaviour, self-mutilation, substance abuse
  • Aggressive behaviour including sexual harassment or molestation
  • Unusually compliant
  • Regressive behaviour, Enuresis, soiling
  • Frequent or open masturbation, touching others inappropriately
  • Depression, withdrawal, isolation from peer group
  • Reluctance to undress for PE or swimming
  • Bruises, scratches in genital area

2.5 Emotion abuse

Emotional abuse is the persistent emotional ill-treatment of a child such as to cause severe and persistent adverse effects on the child’s emotional development. It may involve conveying to children that they are worthless or unloved, inadequate, or valued only insofar as they meet the needs of another person. It may involve not giving the child opportunities to express their views, deliberately silencing them or ‘making fun’ of what they say or how they communicate. It may feature age or developmentally inappropriate expectations being imposed on children. These may include interactions that are beyond the child’s developmental capability, as well as over-protection and limitation of exploration and learning, or preventing the child participating in normal social interaction. It may involve seeing or hearing the ill-treatment of another. It may involve serious bullying (including cyber-bullying), causing children frequently to feel frightened or in danger, or the exploitation or corruption of children. Some level of emotional abuse is involved in all types of maltreatment of a child though it may occur along.

Examples which may indicate emotional abuse (it is not designed to be used as a checklist):

  • Over-reaction to mistakes, continual self-deprecation
  • Delayed physical, mental, emotional development
  • Sudden speech or sensory disorders
  • Inappropriate emotional responses, fantasies
  • Neurotic behaviour: rocking, banging head, regression, tics and twitches
  • Self-harming, drug or solvent abuse
  • Fear of parents being contacted
  • Running away
  • Compulsive stealing
  • Masturbation Appetite disorders – anorexia nervosa, bulimia
  • Soiling, smearing faeces, enuresis

2.6 Responses from parents

Research and experience indicates that the following responses from parents may suggest a cause for concern across all four categories: 

  • An unexpected delay in seeking treatment that is obviously needed 
  • An unawareness or denial of any injury, pain or loss of function (for example, a fractured limb) 
  • Incompatible explanations offered, several different explanations or the child is said to have acted in a way that is inappropriate to her/his age and development 
  • Reluctance to give information or failure to mention other known relevant injuries 
  • Frequent presentation of minor injuries 
  • Unrealistic expectations or constant complaints about the child 
  • Alcohol misuse or other drug/substance misuse 
  • Parents request removal of the child from home 
  • Violence between adults in the household



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