Physical abuse is deliberately hurting or injuring a child. This could be caused by hitting, shaking, throwing, poisoning, burning or scalding, drowning, suffocating or other physical harm.
This type of abuse can leave more than physical marks on the body. Physical abuse can make children feel anxious and depressed. They may feel completely isolated and try to harm themselves or run away. It is common for children who are physically abused to have little or no self-esteem and trouble eating and/or sleeping properly. They may display signs of anger and be unable to concentrate on tasks or school work.
Children who are physically abused may be suffering from different types of abuse at the same time.
Physical abuse can impact on every aspect of a child’s life and continue to affect them into adulthood. Long-term abuse can lead to difficulties in forming close relationships, finding and sustaining a job or career, and have an impact on relationships with their own children.
Other types of physical abuse
Another type of physical abuse is when a parent or carer makes up or causes the symptoms of a serious illness in their child. They might give the child unnecessary medication and make them unwell. This is known as fabricated or induced illness (FII).
Shaking or hitting babies is a form of physical abuse which can cause non-accidental head injuries (NAHI).
Safeguarding practice guidance for professionals about bruising and injuries to non-mobile children can be found in the Devon Children and Families Partnership Procedures Manual.
What to look out for
There may not be a single sign or symptom to look out for, but if a child regularly has injuries, or there seems to be a pattern or you are suspicious about the explanation of an injury, this should be investigated. Find out more from the NSPCC about the signs, indicators and effects of physical abuse.