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    • becoming withdrawn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.

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