Being emotionally withdrawn or aggressive are just two signs that are easily recognised when a child is badly treated. They are not a sure-fire way of identifying children who have been maltreated but they may indicate some form of abuse or neglect.
Does the child seem ‘normal’ for their age?
Every child is different. They have their own needs and develop at their own pace. But when you look at them alongside others of a similar age, do they appear to behave as you would expect? If they seem noticeably younger – socially, or in the language they use – or if they seem much older for their age, for example, in terms of sexual behaviour, that may be as a result of an unhealthy relationship with someone.
Do they seem emotionally or socially withdrawn?
Some children are naturally shy. But there’s a difference between shyness and being emotionally withdrawn. Children who are emotionally withdrawn have real, chronic trouble expressing how they feel to an adult or to another child. They may refuse to do so, and even go out of their way to avoid talking or being with others. If a child is emotionally withdrawn, they may be trying to cope with very strong feelings and/or dealing with a powerful distrust of other people.
Are they unusually aggressive?
Is a child often very aggressive, whether physically or verbally? They may have been influenced to believe this is normal behaviour. They may have witnessed violence at home or elsewhere in their life, or feel the need to protect themselves from something.