Spotting the signs of child abuse

The signs of child abuse can be hard to spot. We can help you to recognise the signs of abuse and support you if you have concerns about a child.

Worried about a child?

If you're worried about a child or young person, you can contact the NSPCC helpline for support and advice for free - call us on 0808 800 5000 or contact us online.

Children can contact Childline any time to get support themselves.

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What are the signs of child abuse?

The signs of child abuse aren't always obvious, and a child might not feel able to tell anyone what's happening to them. Sometimes, children don't even realise that what's happening to them is abuse.

There are different types of child abuse and the signs that a child is being abused may depend on the type. For example, the signs that a child is being neglected may be different from the signs that a child is being abused sexually.

Common signs

Some common signs that there may be something concerning happening in a child’s life include:

    • unexplained changes in behaviour or personality
    • becoming withdrawn
    • seeming anxious
    • becoming uncharacteristically aggressive
    • lacks social skills and has few friends, if any
    • poor bond or relationship with a parent
    • knowledge of adult issues inappropriate for their age
    • running away or going missing
    • always choosing to wear clothes which cover their body.

These signs don’t necessarily mean that a child is being abused, there could be other things happening in their life which are affecting their behaviour  but we can help you to assess the situation.

You may also notice some concerning behaviour from adults who you know have children in their care, which makes you concerned for the child/children’s safety and wellbeing.

Share your concerns

More about child abuse

Types of abuse

Find out about the different types of child abuse and the specific signs that you might be able to spot.

Find out more

Non-recent abuse

Find out about the support available to adults who were abused as children.

Learn more

Sophie's story

Sophie was neglected by her parents growing up. It was only when she took an overdose that the signs of her abuse were spotted and we were able to support her in rebuilding her life.

Read Sophie's story

Work or volunteer with children and families?

Visit NSPCC Learning for information, resources and training to help you respond to child abuse and neglect and protect children and young people across the UK.

Go to NSPCC Learning

How we're working to keep children safe

Our services

How we work directly with children, families and professionals to protect children and prevent abuse.

See our services

Talk PANTS with your child

Help your child keep themselves safe by teaching them the PANTS rules, with some help from our friendly dinosaur, Pantosaurus. They're especially designed for children aged 4-8.

Learn more

Help us make a difference

Whether it's volunteering for us, challenging yourself with an event or campaigning, there are lots of ways you can help us keep more children safe.

Get involved