Signs of Physical Abuse

For more information on physical abuse and its effect on children, click here.

Knowing the signs of physical abuse can help give a voice to a child. Any child can experience physical abuse, but some parents and carers might find it difficult to provide a safe and loving home if they are experiencing financial hardship and poverty, isolation, issues with drugs and alcohol, inadequate housing, mental health issues, relationship issues, domestic abuse, or a lack of support.

All children have bumps, trips, and falls, and not all cuts and bruises mean that a child is being physically abused. If a child has repeated or patterned injuries, this needs to be reported. Other signs of physical abuse include:

  • Bruises (particularly indicative of abuse if observed in infants and immobile children)
  • Broken or fractured bones, or evidence of old fractures
  • Burns or scalds, particularly to the feet or the bottom
  • Lacerations to the body or mouth
  • Bite marks
  • Scarring
  • The effects of poisoning (e.g. vomiting, drowsiness, seizures)
  • Breathing problems from drowning, suffocation, or poisoning
  • Head injuries in babies and toddlers may be signalled by the following symptoms: swelling, bruising, fractures, being extremely sleepy, breathing problems, vomiting seizures, being irritable or not feeding properly
  • Seeming frightened of parents, reluctant to return home after school
  • Displays frozen watchfulness
  • Constantly asking in words/actions what will happen next
  • Shrinks away at the approach of adults

If you are concerned about a child, please contact Front Door For Families on 01273 290400, FrontDoorForFamilies@brighton-hove.gov.uk, or use their Online Referral Form.

If a child is in immediate danger, you should contact the police by calling 999.