Physical abuse involves bodily harm or injury to a child. It can include acts of aggression such as jerking, biting, whipping, pulling hair, striking, slapping, violent shaking and many more unimaginable acts. Not all parents who are physically abusive do so to knowingly hurt their children. Some parents simply believe that corporeal punishment is necessary in order to make children behave. Others are simply sadistic or impulsive, or do not control their own rage.
In the home where physical abuse is present, life is unpredictable. There are no rules or too many rules (so that even the smallest act will set a parent off), and the child in unsure of what will cause his parent to hurt him physically. The environment is angry, often with constant yelling or screaming and there is rarely any praise for good behavior, only punishment for perceived or real bad behavior.
The emotional consequence of physical abuse depends on the age of the child. For young children, some of the signs include distrust of others (particularly of adults), a solitary nature, poor self-esteem, or even becoming a bully themselves. The older a child gets, the more he may suffer these effects. A physically abused child may never weep and may appear to be dissociated from his or her feelings. Or, conversely, he may cry often and be consumed with rage or emotion. Such children are at greater risk of turning to drugs or alcohol, and may struggle to control their own physicality or emotions and therefore lash out at others.
How do you know if a child is being physically abused?
Indicators include frequent injuries or unexplained bruises, welts, or cuts. Children who are physically abused often try to conceal bruises or injuries from others, as they fear retribution if they tell of the abuse. They may wear long clothing even on very hot days, may style their hair to hide scars or marks of abuse, and, in teens, may wear heavy make-up to conceal bruises. Other warning signs can include a child not liking to be touched or recoiling at sudden movements or even slightly raised voices, or seeming apprehensive or fearful about going home. Often, victims of physical abuse leave home early or become homeless from a young age.
A physically abused child is more than likely being emotionally abused as well. Unable to understand why he is being treated in the manner he is, the child may wonder what is wrong with him, or blame himself for the abuse.