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What causes child abuse

There are many things that can cause child abuse. The reasons are often complex, and there’s no single or simple explanation.

Most parents want to love and care for their child in a safe home. Stress, tiredness or lack of parenting skills or family support make the pressures of caring for a child overwhelming, and can cause abuse.

Causes of child abuse can include:

  • isolation and lack of support — no family members, friends, partners or community support to help with the demands of parenting
  • stress — financial pressures, job worries, medical problems or caring for a family member with a disability
  • unrealistic expectations — a lack of understanding about a child’s developmental stages and behaviour
  • intellectual disability or mental illness — parents may be unable to adequately care for their child
  • lack of parenting skills — parents may not know how to care for their child or may believe it is acceptable to use excessive physical force to discipline or punish a child
  • drug, alcohol or gambling problems — addiction or substance abuse may affect a parent’s ability to meet their child’s needs
  • low self-confidence — parents may doubt their ability to meet their child’s needs and find it hard asking for help
  • past childhood experiences — parents may have experienced abuse as a child in their own families, which could have caused them to develop an insecure attachment style
  • mental health problems.

Emergency contacts

Phone Triple Zero (000) if it's an emergency or if you believe a child is in immediate danger or in a life-threatening situation.

If you have reason to suspect a child is experiencing, or is at risk of abuse, contact:

  • a Regional Intake Service (Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm)
  • the Child Safety After Hours Service Centre on 1800 177 135 or (07) 3235 9999 (24 hours a day) if outside business hours.
Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
Last updated:
21 March 2018
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