Recognising abuse

How do you tell if a bruise on a child is an accident or a possible sign of physical abuse?

  • A  a bruised elbow
  • Bruises on the back of the legs
  • A baby with several bruises on their arm
  • A two year hold with bruises on their nose and forehead
  • A child with cut lips
  • A teenager with a broken wrist

Which of the above are likely to be accidents and which might be signs of abuse?

Injuries have to be assessed in context, are they consistent with the age and mobility of a child?  A toddler learning to walk may tumble and bump their head, a teenager might fall off their skate board and fracture their arm. Accidental injuries are commonly on bony body parts, the bits children bump; shins, elbows, knees, when they fall over or collide with objects  None accidental injuries are more common on softer body parts e.g. upper arms where they have been restrained, or backs of legs where the child has tried to defend themselves. Injuries inconsistent with the age, abilities or lifestyle of the child and injuries where an explanation is avoided or is inconsistent with the injury may be a sign of abuse.

To learn more about the signs and sypmtoms of all the different types of abuse and what action to take should you be concerned about the welfare of a child, consider taking a course in Child Protection. Easy to use online Child Protection training courses are available from with both an introductory (Level 1) and a more advanced (Level 2) version.  See our website for more details.