Child neglect and emotional abuse


Neglect and emotional abuse can cause a child a lot of harm. It is often hard to see or prove this kind of abuse, so other people are less likely to help the child. When a child is being physically or sexually abused, emotional abuse is also often happening to the child.

Alternative Names

Neglect - child; Emotional abuse - child



These are examples of emotional abuse:

These are signs that a child may be emotionally abused. They may have any of the following:


These are examples of child neglect:

These are signs that a child may be neglected. The child may:



If you think a child is in immediate danger because of abuse or neglect, call 911.

Call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453). Crisis counselors are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Interpreters are available to help in more than 170 languages. The counselor on the phone can help you determine what steps to take next. All calls are anonymous and confidential.

Counseling and support groups are available for children and for abusive parents who want to get help.

Outlook (Prognosis)

The long-term outcome depends on:


Dubowitz H, Lane WG. Abused and neglected children. In: Kliegman RM, St. Geme JW, Blum NJ, Shah SS, Tasker RC, Wilson KM, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 16. website. Child abuse and neglect. Updated April 13, 2018. Accessed February 11, 2021.

US Department of Health and Human Services, Children's Bureau website. Child abuse & neglect. Updated December 24, 2018. Accessed February 11, 2021.

Review Date: 10/2/2020
Reviewed By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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