Child abuse involves doing something or failing to do something that results in harm to a child or puts a child at risk of harm. Child abuse includes physical, emotional, or psychological and sexual abuse as well as neglect. In addition to the physical harm that can occur from child abuse, abused children can suffer intense emotional damage and can develop severe social problems, such as struggles at school, drug use and juvenile delinquency.
Effects of abuse
Child abuse causes a wide range of problems for children. An immediate risk is that the child will be seriously injured or killed. However, most abused children suffer greater emotional than physical harm. Abused children tend to perform worse at school (and are more likely to drop out) and have higher rates of juvenile delinquency (including running away, becoming violent with other children and engaging in criminal behaviors such as assault). They experience a higher likelihood of drug and alcohol use and associated problems as well as much higher rates of mental health problems, such as depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts. Child abuse can result in long-term physical, social and emotional problems.
Types of abuse
Physical abuse might include punching, slapping or choking. In most jurisdictions, any act that causes injury to a child's body is considered abuse and is a criminal offense. This could include bruising, burns, bone injury, head injury and injury to an internal organ.
Emotional and psychological abuse includes insults, putdowns and name calling. It also includes ignoring the child or threatening the child with violence. This type of abuse can occur coincidentally with domestic violence, when children are witness to acts of violence or abuse between adults. Another variation of this is threatening a child’s mother, siblings or pets with harm or death, as well as a parent threatening to kill himself or herself.
Sexual abuse is any sexual activity which a child cannot comprehend or to which a child cannot consent, including fondling, oral-genital contact, intercourse, exhibitionism and exposure to pornography.
Neglect can include withholding from a child physical needs (food, clothing, shelter), emotional and social needs (love, comfort, access to school), or medical care.
Identify, understand and intervene
It is important to identify the warning signs that a child is being abused. It is also helpful to understand the causes and consequences of abuse, including its effects on the abusive adult, on the abused child, on families in which abuse occurs, and on schools and churches. It is necessary to intervene when you confront child abuse as it is happening or when you learn that it has occurred in the past.
The following resources were chosen for their insight on this topic or to benefit your research. However, due to the variety of sources, not all of the views expressed are necessarily those of the LCMS. Please read with discretion and discuss any questions with your pastor.
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