Physical Abuse

What is Physical Abuse?

A form of abuse which may involve hitting, shaking, throwing, poisoning, burning or scalding, drowning, suffocating or otherwise causing physical harm to a child. Physical harm may also be caused when a parent or carer fabricates the symptoms of, or deliberately induces, illness in a child.

Non Mobile Babies

Be extremely cautious if non mobile babies have suspicious physical marks or bruises and seek advice immediately. See also Practice Guidance on Bruising in Babies and Children and Guidance on Managing Babies with Suspected Birth Marks, including Mongolian Blue Spots both located in the Derby and Derbyshire safeguarding children procedures document library

Physical Punishment of Children

Section 58 of the Children Act 2004 updates the legislation on physical punishment. It limits the use of the defence of reasonable punishment, therefore any injury sustained by a child which is serious enough to warrant a charge of assault occasioning actual bodily harm cannot be justified as the result of reasonable punishment.

What should I do if I have concerns about physical abuse?

If you are concerned about physical abuse you can find more information in the Derby and Derbyshire Safeguarding Children Procedures.

Always discuss your concerns with the senior person in your organisation who is responsible for safeguarding and child protection.

If you are a young person, parent or carer, you can contact Children's Social Care to discuss your concerns.


The DDSCP multi-agency training programme includes courses that include physical abuse. Everybody's Business is a key introductory course that covers physical abuse.


The NSPCC collect national statistics about Physical Abuse that show the numbers of children and young people who have reported abuse and have resources for professionals.

Please see the Global Initiative to End All Corporal Punishment of Children.


Cardiff Child Protection Systematic Reviews (Core Info) is jointly run by Professor Alison Kemp and Dr Sabine Maguire. It is conducted by an in-house research team and supported by Cardiff University’s Support Unit for Research Evidence (SURE). Since 2002 Core Info have developed an internationally recognised methodology for systematically reviewing the world literature with regard to child abuse and neglect. 

Research into Bruising (2015) seeks to answer 

  • Can we age bruising accurately?
  • What patterns of bruising suggest physical child abuse?