Child Abuse & Neglect

For more information, please call 304-526-2049

Children are never to blame for the harm others do to them. Child maltreatment includes all types of abuse and neglect of a child under the age of 18 by a parent, caregiver or another person in a custodial role (e.g., clergy, coach, teacher). There are four common types of abuse.

  • Physical abuse is the use of physical force, such as hitting, kicking, shaking, burning or other show of force against a child.
  • Neglect is the failure to meet a child’s basic needs, including housing, food, clothing, education and access to medical care.
  • Emotional abuse refers to behaviors that harm a child’s self-worth or emotional well-being, such as name calling, shaming, rejection, withholding love and threatening.
  • Sexual abuse involves engaging a child in sexual acts. It includes fondling, rape and exposing a child to other sexual activities.

A Public Health Issue

The CDC has identified child maltreatment as a public health issue. The few cases of abuse or neglect we see in the news are only a small part of the problem. Many cases are not reported to the police or social services until it is too late. In the US in 2011 (the most recent statistics available):

  • Abuse and neglect caused the deaths of almost 1,600 children, which is two children per 100,000 children in the general population or an average of four children dying every day.
  • Almost half of the children killed were younger than one year of age.
  • Over all, more than 80 percent, or four-fifths, of the children killed were younger than four years of age. 

Young children are the most vulnerable to severe injury and death from abuse for many reasons, including their dependency, small size and inability to protect or defend themselves.

Abused children often suffer physical injuries including cuts, bruises, burns, and broken bones. In addition, maltreatment causes stress that can disrupt development of the brain, the nervous system and the immune system. As a result, children who are abused or neglected are at higher risk for health problems as adults. These problems include alcoholism, depression, drug abuse, eating disorders, obesity, high-risk sexual behaviors, smoking, suicide and certain chronic diseases. 

Fatal child abuse may involve repeated abuse over a period of time or it may involve a single, impulsive incident, such as drowning, suffocating or shaking a baby. In cases of fatal neglect, the child’s death results from the caregiver's failure to act. The neglect may be chronic, like extended malnourishment) or acute, such as an infant drowning after being left unsupervised in the bathtub.

How Does This Happen?

In 2011, parents, acting alone or with another parent, were responsible for 78.3 percent of child abuse or neglect fatalities. Nonparents (including family and child care providers, among others) were responsible for 13.4 percent of child fatalities. Abuse and neglect occurs more often in families where there is a great deal of stress, usually due to a family history of violence, drug or alcohol abuse, poverty, and chronic health problems. Families that do not have nearby friends, relatives, and other social support are also at risk. Ongoing violence in the community may also create an environment where child abuse is accepted.

Need Help?

Positive parenting skills include good communication, appropriate discipline and responding to children’s physical and emotional needs. Programs to prevent child maltreatment also improve parent-child relationships and provide parents with social support. These programs may involve one-on-one or group sessions that occur in parents’ homes or in schools, clinics or other community settings. 

If you sometimes lose control when parenting, or you have concerns about your parenting skills, please call 304-526-2049 to learn more about resources available to you.


  • Last updated: 06/24/2013
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