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Pointers for Practice: Signs and Indicators of Possible Abuse, Neglect and Harm In a Child

Abuse and neglect may be the result of a specific incident or ongoing or repeated abuse and neglect that has a progressively negative impact on the health and wellbeing of the child or young person and can lead to negative outcomes in adulthood. The maltreatment may result from one issue such as parental alcohol or drug misuse or an accumulation of family circumstances and stressors, such as lone parenting, domestic violence, social isolation and deprivation.

Practitioners should be mindful that assessing harm does not mean merely listing the risk factors that are accumulating and assuming the longer the list the more likely the level of harm. Rather, the task is to identify how these risk factors are coming together and impacting on parenting capacity and the health and wellbeing of the child.

Links below provide descriptions of the abuse, neglect and harm that may lead to a child being at risk.

It is important to note that these are NOT exhaustive lists. Rather, they are provided to offer practitioners pointers that may alert them to possible abuse or neglect in an adult or child.

Physical abuse

Sexual Abuse


Emotional Abuse and Neglect

(Possible indicators taken from: Descriptions: NSPCC, Horwath 2007 and 2013) (Accessed 29/7/2019)