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There are four recognized types of child abuse
  • Neglect

    Failure to provide for a child’s basic needs—physical, educational, and / or emotional.

  • Physical Abuse

    Injury as a result of hitting, kicking, shaking, burning, or otherwise harming a child.

  • Emotional Abuse

    Any pattern of behavior that impairs a child’s emotional development or sense of self-worth, including constant criticism, threats, and rejection.

  • Sexual Abuse

    Indecent exposure, fondling, rape, or commercial exploitation through prostitution or the production of pornographic material.

Research shows healthy families share five commonalities. These five protective factors can be supported and strengthened within vulnerable families to combat risk factors and prevent incidences of child abuse.

Social & Emotional Competence of Children
  • Family and child interactions that help children develop the ability to communicate clearly, recognize and regulate their emotions, and establish and maintain relationships
Knowledge of Child Development
  • Understanding parenting strategies that support physical, cognitive, language, social, and emotional development
Parental Resilience
  • Managing stress and functioning well when faced with challenges, adversity, and trauma
Social Connections
  • Positive relationships that provide emotional, informational, and spiritual support
Concrete Support in Times of Need
  • Access to concrete support and services that address a family’s needs

Research shows these Domains of Wellness actively build resilience and mitigate the impact of toxic stress in children and their caregivers. These skills and practices help to decrease our stress hormones and inflammation for healthier brains and bodies.

Supportive Relationships
  • Simply being a loving caregiver to your child may give them the resilience to bounce back. Safe and nurturing relationships can protect children’s brains and bodies from the harmful effects of stress and trauma.
  • There are a few simple things you can do to help young bodies and brains get the right nutrition to operate at their best.
  • Children who have experienced toxic stress may have an especially hard time getting enough sleep. Paying special attention to your child’s sleep can be an important step toward helping them cope with hardships from their past.
  • Daily physical activity can help counteract some of the key impacts of toxic stress. For kids, regular workouts can reduce stress hormones, improve behavior and concentration in school and strengthen the immune system.
  • Children exposed to toxic stress may have more difficulty with impulse control when faced with stressful situations. Mindfulness exercises can really help.
Mental Health
  • Mental health support can play an essential role in protecting children and adults from the effects of toxic stress.
  • Time in nature can help counteract some of the key impacts of toxic stress.

Although the presence of certain risk factors can increase the likelihood of child abuse, their existence does not automatically lead to abuse. Rather, recent research suggests that child abuse arises from the interaction of risk factors which compounds stress and parenting challenges within families.

Risk Factors for Children
  • Lack of understanding about children’s needs, child development, and parenting skills
  • History of abuse in the family
  • Adult substance abuse or mental health issues
  • Low levels of education
  • Large number of dependent children
  • Financial challenges or difficulties
  • Thoughts and emotions supporting abusive behaviors
Risk Factors for Families
  • Social isolation
  • Family disorganization, dissolution, and violence (including intimate partner violence)
  • Parenting stress, including stress associated with being a young, transient, or unsupported caregivers
  • Poor parent-child relationships and negative interactions
Risk Factors for Communities
  • Social and socioeconomic inequality
  • High poverty
  • High residential instability / lack of adequate housing
  • Poor social connections
  • Community violence
  • High unemployment rates
  • High density of alcohol outlets
Learn More About Child Abuse and Toxic Stress