Characteristics of People Who Abuse or Neglect Children

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

While it's prudent to look for signs of child abuse or neglect on the child, let's not forget to look at the other angle, at the potential abuser. This lesson provides some signs and characteristics you should look out for regarding people who abuse or neglect children.

What Is Child Abuse & Neglect?

When a caregiver, when they have the means or are offered the means to do so, fails to provide the fundamental age-appropriate needs for a child, this is called child neglect. In other words, the caregiver doesn't give the child the basic food, clothing, education, medical care, shelter, and protection from harm they deserve. If a person physically, emotionally, or sexually harms the child, then this is called child abuse.

While many times it may be important to focus on warning signs the child may be showing relating to neglect or abuse, let's not forget about the caregiver or abuser. They may have some characteristics, and they may show warning signs that they are neglecting or abusing their child and it's important to look for them. That's what this lesson is about.

Concern, Denial, & Blame Shifting

Let's say you are friends with a neighbor whom you begin to suspect of neglecting or abusing their child. What should you look out for? Well, one sign of the maltreatment (abuse or neglect) may be passive in nature. Perhaps you'll notice that when their child is outside in freezing weather without proper clothing, the parent is nearby but doesn't care. Maybe the child is crying all alone and the parent, again, is simply ignoring the situation. Or, if the child falls and injures themselves on the playground, the parent seems unable to recognize that there is a problem. In other words, if the parent shows little to no concern for a child when there otherwise should be, or they cannot recognize emotional or physical distress, then this may be a sign of child maltreatment.

If, in the course of discussing a concerning incident you saw with their child, they are in denial of any problems when there are obvious ones present, or if they actually begin to blame the child for the problems instead, this could be a cause for concern. Some caregivers may take this a step forward and even verbally abuse the child in front of you or when they think you're not looking. They may call the child worthless or evil or belittle them in other ways.

Denial of obvious child maltreatment, blame-shifting, and belittling a child are a few potential characteristics of people who abuse or neglect children may have.

Physical, Social, & Other Signs

Your neighbor also lets slip that they hate how their child showers more attention on their spouse and that the child is ungrateful and should show them more affection and care. Such statements may indicate child maltreatment.

You begin to worry and consult with another neighbor whom you know is the child's teacher. She also tells you that she's had some concerns. She's noticed that the child is not allowed to play with friends or talk to anyone about anything related to their personal life. Restriction of social contact by a parent can be a sign of child abuse or neglect.

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