Child abuse can result from physical, verbal, or sexual harm. While child abuse is often considered to take the form of an action, there are also examples of inaction that cause harm, such as neglect. Households in which participants suffer from alcoholism, substance abuse, or anger issues demonstrate higher occurrences of child abuse as compared to households without. Outcomes of child abuse can result in both short and long term injury, or even death. Some children may be unaware that they are victims of child abuse. Child abuse is widespread and can occur in any cultural, ethnic, or income group.
Physical abuse involves non-accidental harming of a child by, for example, burning, beating, or breaking bones. Verbal abuse involves harming a child by, for example, belittling them or threatening physical or sexual acts. Emotional trauma can result from several forms of abuse.
Studies show that one in four girls and one in eight boys are sexually abused before the age of 18, and that approximately one in 20 children are physically abused each year. Child sexual abuse is the deliberate exposure of a minor child to sex or sexual activities that the child cannot comprehend or consent to. This behavior includes acts such as inappropriate touching of a child's breasts or genitalia, someone exposing their genitalia to a child, fondling, oral-genital contact, genital and anal intercourse, as well as exhibitionism, voyeurism, and exposure to pornography.
Child neglect occurs when someone does not provide the necessities of life to a child, either intentionally or with reckless disregard for the child's well being. This can include physical neglect, such as withholding food, clothing, shelter, or other necessities. Emotional neglect includes withholding love or comfort or affection. Medical neglect occurs when medical care is withheld.
Religious freedom has become a point of contention in some cases of possible child abuse—some states, for instance, allow for medical neglect due to religious objections. There are also examples of some extreme religious acts that are considered child abuse in certain countries, but which are acceptable in others.