Recognising abuse

Recap of safeguarding training covering the four categories of abuse and how to identify possible indicators of abuse

Support avatar
Written by Support
Updated over a week ago

This help centre article was written for childminders preparing for registration with the Koru Kids' Home Nursery service

Quick Links

This article is a recap of what you learn in your Safeguarding training with recognising abuse.


Children are unique and varied individuals.

  • Their response to trauma will be as individual as they are.

Child abuse can happen to any child in any family in any organisation or setting.

  • Children are more likely to be abused by people they know.

Four categories of abuse

Physical abuse:

  • Physical abuse is a form of abuse which may involve hitting, shaking, throwing, poisoning, burning or scalding, drowning, suffocating, or otherwise causing physical harm to a child.

  • Physical harm may also be caused when a parent fabricates the symptoms of or deliberately induces illness in a child.

Emotional abuse:

  • Emotional abuse is any type of abuse that involves the continual emotional mistreatment of a child. It's sometimes called psychological abuse.

  • Emotional abuse can involve deliberately trying to scare, humiliate, isolate or ignore a child.


  • Neglect is the persistent failure to meet a child's basic physical and/or psychological needs which is likely to result in the serious impairment of the child's health or development.

  • Neglect may occur during pregnancy as a result of maternal substance abuse.

  • Once a child is born, neglect may involve a parent or carer failing to:
    - Provide adequate food, clothing and shelter (including exclusion from home or abandonment).
    - Protect a child from physical and emotional harm or danger.
    - Ensure adequate supervision (including the use of inadequate care-givers).
    - Ensure access to appropriate medical care or treatment.

  • It may also include neglect of, or unresponsiveness to, a child's basic emotional needs.

Sexual abuse:

  • Sexual abuse involves forcing or enticing a child or young person to take part in sexual activities, not necessarily involving a high level of violence, whether or not the child is aware of what is happening.

  • The activities may involve physical contact, including assault by penetration (for example, rape or oral sex) or non-penetrative acts such as masturbation, kissing, rubbing and touching outside of clothing.

  • They may include non-contact activities, such as involving children in looking at or in the production of, sexual images, watching sexual activities, encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways, or grooming a child in preparation for abuse (including via the internet).

  • Sexual abuse is not solely perpetrated by adult males. Women can also commit acts of sexual abuse, as can other children.

Identifying possible indicators of abuse

Physical indicators.

  • These are things that can be seen from the child’s appearance.

Behavioural indicators.

  • These are things that can be seen from what the child does

Parental indicators.

  • These are responses and behaviours exhibited by a parent/carer that may cause concern.

Indicators of physical abuse.

  • These include:
    - Unexplained injuries;
    - Injuries on certain parts of the body;
    - Injuries in various stages of healing;
    - Injuries that reflect an article used;
    - Flinching when approached;
    - Reluctant to change;
    - Crying/instability;
    - Afraid of home;
    - Behavioural extremes;
    - Apathy/depression;
    - Wanting arms and legs covered even in very hot weather

Indicators of emotional abuse.

  • These include:
    - Failure to thrive;
    - Attention seeking;
    - Over ready to relate to others;
    - Low self esteem;
    - Apathy;
    - Depression/self harm;
    - Drink/drug/solvent abuse;
    - Persistently being over-protective;
    - Constantly shouting at, threatening or demeaning a child;
    - Withholding love and affection;
    - Regularly humiliating a child.

Indicators of neglect.

  • These include:
    - Tired/listless;
    - Unkempt;
    - Poor hygiene;
    - Untreated medical conditions;
    - Medical appointments missed;
    - Constantly hungry or stealing food;
    - Over eats when food is available;
    - Poor growth;
    - Poor/late attendance;
    - Being regularly left alone or unsupervised;
    - Dressed inappropriately for the weather conditions;
    - Having few friends and/or being withdrawn;
    - Ill-equipped for school.

Indicators of sexual abuse.

  • These include:
    - Age inappropriate sexual behaviour/knowledge/promiscuity;
    - Wary of adults/running away from home;
    - Eating disorders/depression/self harm;
    - Unexplained gifts/money;
    - Stomach pains when walking or sitting;
    - Bedwetting;
    - Recurrent genital discharge;
    - Sexually transmitted diseases.

The procedure to follow if you suspect a child is subject to abuse

If you have any concern about a child in their care, you must contact your Local Authority Safeguarding Hub as soon as possible.

  • You must log factual information; the date, time, marks or comments, disclosures (word for word ideally) that you are concerned about on a “Cause for Concern” form.

If the child arrives with bruising or marks, an “Injury at home” form needs to be filled out, following the same policy and procedure as an accident form.

  • This will be filed in the child’s personal file. The parent/carer will be asked about the bruising/marks and their response will be added and both the parent and you must sign the form.

You must ensure that accurate written records about a child are kept even if there is no need to make an immediate referral and that all such records are kept confidentially and securely.

  • Where an immediate referral is not required, you must continue to monitor the child and situation.


Did this answer your question?