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WHAT -- Any kind of deprivation or mistreatment that adversely affects the welfare of an infant, child, or adolescent. Mistreatment can be physical or emotional. Annually, an estimated 2% to 6% of all children in the U.S. suffer injury from neglect or assault.

WHO -- It is estimated that 90% of child abuse is inflicted by a close relative, parent or brother or sister -- usually the parent. Abusers come from all strata of society, all geographical areas, and all ethnic groups.

WHY -- Parents who abuse children usually do so as a response to stress. Abusers often were abused themselves as children.

SIGNS OF CHILD ABUSE -- Bruises, welts, burns, bumps, cuts, bite marks, broken bones, black eyes. Emotional changes in the abused child may be manifested by failure to thrive, weight loss, weight gain, nightmares, inability to sleep, phobias, frequent illnesses, withdrawal, listlessness, passiveness, low self-esteem, anxiety and/or depression. Some abused children may become aggressive, disruptive, impulsive, hyperactive, or negative. They may participate in sexual aberrations, drug abuse, or prostitution.

REPORTING TO AUTHORITIES -- Report to your local authorities or child protective agency any child in whom you observe signs of abuse. Many states have laws that charge you with being an accomplice to abuse or neglect if you see it and do not report it. If you suspect abuse or neglect, report it and let the authorities make the final decision. Your name will be kept confidential.

IF YOU WERE ABUSED -- If you yourself were abused as a child, ask for guidance and counseling so you will not be likely to abuse your own child. You will find great satisfaction in breaking the abuse pattern. Help is available (see Support Services).

TREATMENT -- Both parents and children: Psychotherapy, preferably long-term.

SUPPORT SERVICES -- Shelters are available in almost any area of the country. Call Parents Anonymous (1-800-882-1250) or Prevent Child Abuse (Box 2866, Chicago, IL 60690).

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