Recognizing Child Abuse and Neglect

There are four major types of child maltreatment

  1. Neglect
  2. Physical Abuse
  3. Sexual Abuse
  4. Emotional Abuse

Although any of the forms may be found separately, they often occur together. Most child abuse occurs in the family home. However, anyone that comes in contact with a child can inflict abuse. The following are definitions for South Carolina.


Neglect is failure to provide for a child’s basic needs.

  • Physical: lack of appropriate supervision or failure to provide necessary food, shelter or medical care
  • Educational: failure to educate a child or attend to special educational needs
  • Emotional: inattention to a child’s emotional needs or allowing a child to use drugs or alcohol

Situations such as these do not always mean that a child is neglected. Sometimes cultural values, the standards of care in the community and poverty may be contributing factors, indicating that a family needs information or assistance. When a family fails to use information and resources and when the child’s needs continue to be unmet, child welfare intervention may be required.

Physical abuse

Physical abuse is non-accidental physical injury. This may range from minor bruises to severe fractures or death as a result of punching, beating, kicking, biting, shaking, throwing, stabbing, chocking, hitting (with a hand, stick, strap or other object), burning or otherwise harming a child. Such injury is considered abuse regardless of whether the caretaker intended to hurt the child or not.

Sexual abuse

Sexual abuse is any act in which a child is used for sexual gratification. Sexual abuse refers to any sexual act with a child by an adult or older child. Examples of these are fondling a child’s genitals, penetration, incest, rape, sodomy, indecent exposure and commercial exploitation through prostitution or the production of pornographic materials. This also includes exposure to pornographic materials and sexual acts.

Emotional abuse

Emotional abuse is any pattern of attitude, behavior or failure to act that interferes with a child’s mental health or social development. This may include using verbally abusive language to constantly belittle or criticize; threats or rejection; as well as withholding love, support or guidance.

Learn More about Emotional Abuse

For more information