Physical abuse is an act of another party involving contact intended to cause feelings of physical pain, injury, or other physical suffering or bodily harm. Physical abuse has been described among animals too, for example among the Adélie penguins. In most cases, children are the victims of physical abuse, but adults can be the sufferers too. Physically abused children are at risk for later interpersonal problems involving aggressive behavior, and adolescents are at a much greater risk for substance abuse. In addition, symptoms of depression, emotional distress, and suicidal ideation are also common features of people who have been physically abused. Studies have also shown that children with a history of physical abuse may meet DSM-IV-TR criteria for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Seeking treatment is unlikely for a majority of people that are physically abused, and the ones who are seeking treatment are usually under some form of legal constraint. The prevention and treatment options for physically abused children include: enhancing positive experiences early in the development of the parent-child relationship, change how parents teach, discipline, and attend to their children, receive cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which specifically targets anger patterns and distorted beliefs, and receive training that focuses on parenting skills and expectations. This may include training in social competence and management of daily demands. Although these treatment and prevention strategies are to help children and parents of children who have been abused, some of these methods can also be applied to adults who have physically abused.