Ā Definition

According to KidsHelpline (2018), physical abuse consists of a single or repeated act of physical violence that causes injury. The violence can be intentional or unintentional and the definition includes everything from slapping a child to more serious violence and injury. Physical abuse also causes trauma and can have long lasting implications for children’s physical well being and mental health. Physical abuse can occur anywhere, even in environments which should be safe for children. One important point is that physical abuse is against the law, even when it may be socially acceptable. Love should not hurt.

There was no safe environment for children in early times. Many societies around the world accepted physical violence and injury as a part of their daily lives. As one example, Kessen (cited in Starr, 1988, p. 120) stated that ā€œbefore 1750 only 25% of children born in London lived to age 5 years.ā€ Moreover, Starr (1988) mentioned that dead infants on the streets were common in the 19th century. DeMause (1974) explains that only 3,3 % of children, who were born in Paris, had the chance to grow up with their parents. In addition, children were obliged to observe public executions and often experienced excessive beatings seen as preventing or reprimanding them for bad behavior.

De Mause (1980) identified a shift in parenting to show empathy to children. In the twenty-first century, the council of Europe (2016) stated that ā€œchildren have a right to a life free of violenceā€.

It is difficult ascertain how prevalent physical abuse still is. ā€œViolence against children is still too often considered socially acceptable and tolerated in Europe today.ā€ (Council of Europe, 2016).If violence is used to solve problems and to discipline children, then this ā€œsolutionā€ is brought from generation to generation.

Signs and forms of physical abuse (See NSPCC for more details)


  • Ā  Forms: hitting, slapping, punching, kicking, shaking, throwing, poisoning, burning, biting, drowning
  • Ā  Signs: bruises, swelling, unusual changes in behaviour, fear, withdrawal, running away, drowziness or loss of appetite, bite or burn marks, breathing problems., excessively violent towards others.



Icon for the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

Inclusive Perspectives in Primary Education Copyright © 2021 by room305 and Inclusive Education Class 2020-2021 is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

Share This Book