Child Abuse Defined

Defining Child Maltreatment

The International Child Abuse Network (Yes ICAN) takes their definition of child abuse and neglect from both the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), Public Law 104-235), as it has been amended and reauthorized in March 2003, and as amended by the Keeping Children and Families Safe Act of 2003 and the Report of the Consultation on Child Abuse Prevention, World Health Organization, Social Change and Mental Health, Violence and Injury Prevention. March 1999


Child Abuse Simply Stated

Simply stated, Child abuse is the bad treatment of a child under the age of 18 by a parent, caretaker, someone living in their home or someone who works with or around children. Abuse of a child is anything that causes injury or puts the child in danger of physical injury. Child abuse can be physical (such as burns or broken bones), sexual (such as touching of private parts or incest), or emotional (such as belittling or calling the child names). Neglect happens when a parent or responsible caretaker fails to provide adequate supervision, food, clothing, shelter or other basics for a child. Child abuse is any action (or lack of) which endangers or impairs a child’s physical, mental or emotional health and development. Child abuse occurs in different ways. All forms of abuse and neglect are harmful to the child.

Child abuse may be:

Physical abuse is any physical injury to a child that is not accidental. Emotional and psychological abuse is when a child is not nurtured and is not provided with love and security.

Psychological abuse occurs when children are not provided with the necessary environment to develop mentally and/or emotionally.

Sexual abuse is when the child is involved in any sexual activity with an adult or another child who is either older or more powerful.

Neglect is depriving a child of their basic needs. These include food, clothing, warmth and shelter, emotional and physical security and protection, medical and dental care, cleanliness, education, and supervision.

If you suspect that a child you know or you are someone who is experiencing any of these types of abuse, please check out our more detailed definitions and indicators.

You might also call your local child abuse information or reporting number found in your telephone book or through your telephone information service.

For those living within the United States, our web site provides you with information to report child abuse in each state.


Other Definitions

For more detailed definitions, please click on any of the following: