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Common Signs of Physical Abuse in Children

Miriam Galindo

As a court custody evaluator and practicing psychologist, Dr. Miriam Galindo has worked with many families in conflict. Dr. Miriam Galindo comes to her work with a commitment to preserving children's best interests and an understanding of what physical abuse may look like.

When a child has suffered physical abuse, he or she may or may not have visible bruises. Such bruises may be warning signs, particularly if they look like the result of a physical altercation or are in areas that the child would be unlikely to hurt accidentally. Such bruises include those on the head, upper arm, hands, and feet, as well as those that are in the shape of a hand or blunt object.
Other children who have suffered physical abuse may have burns, bite marks, or multiple fractures. Children who have experienced suffocation or poisoning may have respiratory, digestive, or even neurological issues.
Such symptoms are particularly likely to point to abuse if the child is also showing signs of social or emotional distress. A history of abuse leaves a child unable to express emotions constructively, and the unexpressed emotions may come out as anxiety, depression, or even substance use in later years.
The abused child is also likely to have trouble trusting adults and is likely to have a negative self-image. Whether or not the abuser verbalizes a belief that the child is worthless or bad, the experience of intentional physical harm makes a child feel as though they are “damaged goods” or not deserving of care.
Fortunately, intervention can stop abuse and give a child a chance to grow up healthy. Those who suspect abuse should not hesitate to report what they know. A child's current and future well-being may depend on it.

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