Medical Definition of Child abuse

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Reviewed on 12/27/2018

Child abuse: A complex set of behaviors that include child neglect and the physical, emotional, and sexual abuse of children. Although most people think first of physical abuse when they hear the term child abuse, physical abuse makes up only a small percentage of reported cases. Physical abuse is defined as physical injury inflicted upon the child with cruel and/or malicious intent, although the law recognizes that in some cases the parent or caretaker may not have intended to hurt the child; rather, the injury may have resulted from excessive discipline or physical punishment. Physical abuse includes punching, beating, kicking, biting, burning, shaking, or otherwise physically harming a child. Injuries that can be fatal include severe head trauma, shaken baby syndrome, trauma to the abdomen or chest, scalding, burns, drowning, suffocation, and poisoning. Child abuse should always be reported, investigated, and stopped.

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Reviewed on 12/27/2018