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The Most Common Types of Child Abuse (Part 1)

Updated: Apr 2, 2023

Child abuse has to do with children under 18 who are mistreated by an adult in whose care (e.g., relative, teacher, coach, babysitter, stepparent, religious figure) they are. This abuse typically results in harm (even the potential or threat of harm still constitutes child abuse).

Emotional Abuse (a.k.a., Psychological Abuse, Verbal Abuse)

This is one of the most common types of abuse. It’s also one that I was afflicted by as a child. It consists of persistent abuse that makes the child feel worthless, unloved, or unwanted. My mother was a master of this. She’d go out of her way to make me feel like my only value came from meeting her needs and thus I became a great “people pleaser.”

Many perpetrators, such as my mother, will use words to manipulate or control a child. She even went so far as to try this in front of my son, calling him a $20,000 thing. That was the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back though because while she’d already damaged me, my son stood up for himself and decided she wouldn’t damage him too (he hasn’t spoken to her since then).

Some of the damage that emotional abuse causes include delinquency, low self-esteem, depression, hostility, and anxiety. Personally, I suffered from low self-esteem as a child, and I still suffer from anxiety today. I think the only thing that saved me from delinquency is my strong desire to please people.

Unfortunately, it’s difficult to recognize and document a pattern of emotional abuse. However, it’s typically found in all the most common types of child abuse. So, if you feel that the child is showing any signs of behavioral changes (e.g., wetting their bed, being overly fearful of their parents, being anxious, crying excessively, problems sleeping), it’s time to consider whether they’re being abused. Remember that without someone intervening on the child’s behalf they may suffer from long-term mental health conditions (e.g., PTSD) which is something that happened to me because my parents were so “good” at hiding the abuse.


This is another one of the most common types of child abuse making up 61% of all cases. Neglect occurs when a child’s basic needs aren’t taken care of. Unfortunately, there are times when this is done unintentionally. An example of unintentional neglect would be when a parent doesn’t have the financial resources to take care of their child’s basic needs. Nevertheless, in the eyes of the law, it’s still child abuse since it can result in developmental, emotional, behavioral, and social issues. (Please note that I’m not condoning this treatment, but I do believe our government should be helping these parents more instead of punishing them for what’s seemingly beyond their control). This is probably also the reason why neglect is considered one of the most common types of child abuse.

Unfortunately, neglect can result in substance abuse, cognitive delays, numerous mental health issues (e.g., dysthymia, antisocial personality disorder), and even sexual promiscuity. This is because children will go out of their way to find the attention they’re missing at home. It’ll come to a point where even negative attention is desirable.

Are there any other “common” types of child abuse?

These are just two of the most common types of child abuse. In part 2 of this article, we’ll discuss the other two types of the most common types of child abuse. It is my hope at Healing Family Trauma in Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania not just to educate you about this topic but to also help you find your own voice if you’ve been impacted by any type of family trauma. Feel free to reach out today.

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