When children are nurtured, they can grow up to be happy and healthy adults. But when they lack an attachment to a caring adult, receive inconsistent nurturing, or experience harsh discipline, the consequences can affect their lifelong health, well-being, and relationships with others. Child abuse, the act by a parent or caregiver that creates a risk of serious harm to a child, can occur anywhere and is not restricted to a particular race, income, or location. Child abuse or neglect often takes place in the home at the hands of a person the child knows well—a parent, relative, babysitter, or family friend. There are four major types of child maltreatment. Although any of the forms may be found separately, they often occur together.


  • Neglect- failure to provide for a child’s basic needs that may endanger the child’s physical health.
  • Physical abuse- physical injury purposely inflicted on a child.
  • Emotional abuse- a pattern of behavior that harms children’s emotional development, their spirit and self-concept, and makes them feel unloved and worthless.
  • Sexual abuse includes sexual intercourse, exploitation, and any sexual contact, touching or non-touching, with a child.


Child abuse in Wisconsin also includes cases where an unborn child is endangered due to the mother’s “habitual lack of self-control in the use of alcohol beverages, controlled substances or controlled substance analogs, exhibited to a severe degree.” Unborn child abuse includes serious physical harm to the unborn child or the risk of serious physical harm to the child when born, as a result of the mother’s substance abuse. Furthermore, the manufacturing of methamphetamine is also recognized as a form of child abuse or neglect when a child is physically present during the manufacture or it occurs on the premises of a child’s home.


Caring for a child is a tough but rewarding job, and we all have a stake in ensuring caregivers have access to the resources and support they need to be successful. Entire communities play a role in helping families raise safe, healthy, and productive children. Some things you can do include: help a family under stress (offer to babysit, help with errands), be an active community member, keep your neighborhood safe (start a Neighborhood Watch), and learn how to recognize and report signs of child abuse and neglect. Safe, stable, and nurturing relationships are paramount to healthy child development and preventing child maltreatment.


Information provided by: WI Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention Board


Submitted by: Michelle Obermueller, MA, Prevention Coordinator at Indianhead Community Action Agency

“Healthy Minute” is brought to you by healthyburnett.org