Child abuse

Child abuse

Child abuse is a sickening thought. Many children are hurt at home where they should feel safest. Nurses must be aware of the signs of child abuse and readily report any suspicious findings. Abuse can take the form of physical, sexual, or psychological (Falkner, 2018). Children in homes affected by poverty, mental illness, and alcohol/substance abuse are at highest risk for abuse or maltreatment (Falkner, 2018). Special needs children are also at higher risk due to caregiver exhaustion (CDC, 2018).

In school age children it may be hard to detect signs of abuse or maltreatment. Often these signs are interpreted as general bad behaviors. Children may act out at school and be hyperactive, defiant or aggressive. They may also become withdrawn, depressed, anxious and fearful. These children may be reluctant to go home after school or activities. They may also have numerous school absences (Mayo Clinic, 2018). Physically, it may be hard to detect abuse. Unexplained injuries, especially those that do not match the story, are common (Falkner, 2018). These children may also show signs of physical, medical, and dental neglect (CDC, 2018). Sexually, abused children may act out sexually with their peers and indicate advanced sexual knowledge for their age. Other signs may be blood in underwear and sexually transmitted diseases (Mayo Clinic, 2018).

It is imperative to understand cultural diversity when examining a possible child abuse case. A family of Middle Eastern descent may seem to downplay illness of a child because in their beliefs illness is shameful (Health Care Chaplaincy, 2013). A nurse in the United States may incorrectly identify this as neglect. It is important to understand a patient’s beliefs. Cultural competency is a must.

In Pennsylvania, the Department of Human Services requires child abuse allegations be submitted through Child Line. To reach Child Line, call 1-800-932-0313 or find an online link for reporting at Any health care worker that is licensed by the state of Pennsylvania is considered a mandated reporter. Any suspicion of child abuse must be reported in a timely fashion.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018). Retrieved from…

Falkner, A. (2018). Age-Appropriate Approach to Pediatric Health Care Assessment. Health Assessment, Foundations for Effective Practice. Retrieved from…

Health Care Chaplaincy. (2013). Handbook of Patients’ Spiritual and Cultural Values for Health Care Professionals. Retrieved from…

Mayo Clinic. (2018). Retrieved from…

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Child Abuse


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