What is child abuse?

Child abuse is not just physical violence directed at a child. It is any form of maltreatment by an adult, which is violent or threatening for the child. This includes neglect.

When child abuse occurs in the home and the abuser is, for example, the child’s parent or care-giver, this is a form of domestic violence .

But children are sometimes abused by other adults on whom they are dependent, such as day nursery workers, teachers and sports coaches.

Sometimes abuse is intentional, but not always. If parents or caregivers are no longer able to cope with caring for the child, this can result in dysfunctional behaviour and abuse.

Scope of child abuse

In 2010 Leiden University and TNO (Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research) carried out a study into the scope and nature of child abuse. Every year an estimated 119,000 children experience some type of abuse.

Types of child abuse

There are five general types of child abuse:

  • Physical abuse: all forms of physical violence;
  • Emotional or psychological abuse: an adult regularly berates the child, acts in a dismissive and hostile manner towards the child or intentionally scares the child.
  • Physical neglect: the child does not receive the care and nurturing that it needs.
  • Emotional or psychological neglect: continuous lack of positive attention for the child. Ignoring the child’s need for love, warmth and security. This category also covers cases in which children are witnesses to violence between their parents or caregivers.
  • Sexual abuse: sexual contact which an adult forces upon a child.