A pregnant mother-of-four handcuffed and starved her eight-year-old son because she believed her own mother preferred him to her, police say

According to a probable cause affidavit, Melissa Miranda brutally beat and starved her child to the point he was forced to steal food, only for him to be punished.

The 33-year-old would also allegedly handcuffed him to a table in their living room from 8pm to 4am as further punishment.

She even allegedly forced him to sleep in a bin bag because he had stained the carpet in the room because of her jealousy.

Melissa Miranda and her live-in boyfriend and the biological father of two of their children, but not the boy in question, Josue Tovias, 28, were arrested on Saturday (27 January).

It comes after the state Department of Human Services alerted police them to a possible case of child abuse at the couple's home, in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

This followed a visit by officers to the child's school on Thursday where staff had expressed concerns over the boy's drastically changing appearance, the arrest affidavit says.

Miranda and Tovias were arrested in connection with kidnapping, permitting child abuse, second-degree domestic battery, first-degree endangering the welfare of a minor, aggravated assault on a family or household member, first-degree terroristic threatening and tampering with physical evidence, according to KFSM News.

The arrest affidavit said the boy's school noticed his eyes and cheeks were sunken and even spotted him eating from the school bin and stealing food from other pupils.

During an interview with the boy the Children's Safety Center, found the boy had a distended stomach, and had an injury to his wrist consistent with wearing handcuffs, as well as injuries to his back and spine.

The affidavit said Tovias, denied the allegations while Miranda admitted she was disappointed with her actions and needed help, it was reported.

Police said social services had taken custody of the children while Miranda and Tovias were being held until a court hearing, set for 28 February.