The Heightened Risk Of Child Abuse During The Holidays

Having children home from school; traveling; increased alcohol intake; and the added expenses of holiday shopping can create stress for parents and caregivers.

Sadly, such pressures may lead to child abuse.

Abuse not only negatively affects the life of the child, but also the family and the entire society. Many communities have resources available to help parents with child care, paying for utilities, substance abuse, or dealing with difficult situations like the loss of a job during the holidays. Getting help coping with stress can prevent it from escalating to child abuse. "Holiday stress increases risk of abuse or neglect for some children; CHFS offers advice to keep kids safe," (Dec. 27, 2016).


State agencies often see an increase in the number of child abuse reports following the holidays. For example, Texas Child Protective Services received 56,000 reports of child abuse in December 2015, and 65,000 reports in January 2016.

Holiday abuse is often not reported until January, when children return to school and school officials notice signs of abuse. An Idaho study showed police incident reports for domestic violence were nearly three times higher than normal rates on New Year’s Day, and a University of Pennsylvania study showed a significantly higher amount of calls for a major, unnamed U.S. city on New Year’s Day.

Understanding the heightened risk the holidays present is important for preventing child abuse.

Some of the signs of possible physical abuse safe adults can observe include:

  • A child reports physical abuse or has unexplained injuries such as cuts, bruises, broken bones, bites, and/or burns.
  • The child or parent provides no explanation of injuries or provides an explanation inconsistent with the injuries.
  • A parent or caregiver has a history of child abuse and/or animal abuse.
  • A child has frequent emergency room visits.
  • The parent or caregiver disciplines harshly or asks school officials to use harsh physical discipline.
  • Parent or caregiver refers to child as bad, worthless, or wicked.
  • Parent lacks parenting, coping, and/or anger management skills, or has an alcohol and/or substance abuse problem
  • Parent or caregiver suffers from mental illness or was abused and/or neglected as a child.
  • Child displays changes in behavior or is frequently absent from school.
  • Child is afraid of his or her parents or other adults; abuses pets and other animals; displays poor cognitive ability; emotional problems; development regression; lacks empathy.
  • Child does not want to return to his or her home after school or other activities.
Finally, your opinion is important to us. Please complete the opinion survey: