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Abuse and Neglect

Narrative

State child protective services (CPS) agencies received approximately 3.3 million referrals, involving an estimated 5.9 million children, alleging abuse or neglect in 2010. Investigations determined that an estimated 695,000 unique children were victims of abuse or neglect in 2010, equaling a victimization rate of 9.2 per 1,000 children in the population. Neglect was the most common type of maltreatment (experienced by 78.3 percent of victims), followed by physical abuse (17.6 percent), sexual abuse (9.2 percent), psychological maltreatment (8.1 percent), and medical neglect (2.4 percent). About 10 percent of victims experienced other types of maltreatment including abandonment, threats of harm, or congenital drug addiction.

In 2010, children aged 0-3 years accounted for 34.0 percent of all victims, with 12.7 percent younger than 1 year of age. About one-quarter of victims were between the ages of 4 and 7 years, 18.7 percent were aged 8-11 years, 17.3 percent were aged 12-15 years, and 6.2 percent were aged 16-17 years. Victimization was split between the sexes, with boys accounting for 48.5 percent and girls accounting for 51.2 percent (data not shown in graph images or in data tables on this site). A variety of risk factors have been associated with child maltreatment, including child health and disability status, caregiver substance abuse, intimate partner or domestic violence, and poverty.1

The effects of child maltreatment can be serious and long-lasting, ranging from increased risk of chronic emotional, behavioral and physical illness2 to delinquency and criminality3 to lower levels of socioeconomic achievement.4 Taken together, the lifetime cost per victim of nonfatal child maltreatment has been estimated at $210,012, while the lifetime cost associated with one year of all confirmed cases has been estimated at $124 billion.5

Overall, 81.2 percent of perpetrators of abuse or neglect were parents of the victim (either alone or in conjunction with another person). Additional categories of perpetrators included other relatives (6.1 percent), unmarried partners of parents (4.4 percent), and professionals such as childcare workers (0.4 percent; data not shown in graph images or in data tables on this site). Other types of perpetrators included foster parents, friends and neighbors, and legal guardians.

1 U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families. Child Welfare Information Gateway: Child Abuse and Neglect, Risk and Protective Factors. Accessed: May 18,2012.

2 Felitti VJ, Anda RF, Nordenberg D, Williamson DF, Spitz AM, Edwards V, Koss MP, Marks JS. Relationship of childhood abuse and household dysfunction to many of the leading causes of death in adults. The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 1998;14 (4):245–258

3 Widom CS and Maxfield MG. An update on the “cycle of violence” research in brief. Accessed: May 18, 2012.

4 Currie J and CS Widom. Long-term consequences of child abuse and neglect on adult economic well-being. Child Maltreatment, 2010; 15 (2):111–120

5 Fang X, Brown DS, Florence CS, Mercy JA. The economic burden of child maltreatment in the United States and implications for prevention. Child Abuse & Neglect, 2012; 36(2): 156-165

Graphs

This image is described in the Data section.

abuse and neglect among children graph

This image is described in the Data section.

child abuse victims by age graph

Data

Abuse and Neglect Among Children Under Age 18, by Type of Maltreatment, 2010

Percent of Victims:

  • Neglect 78.3
  • Physical Abuse 17.6
  • Sexual Abuse 9.2
  • Psychological Maltreatment 8.1
  • Medical Neglect 2.4
  • Other 10.3

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Children's Bureau. Child Maltreatment 2010. Accessed: May 17, 2012.

Abuse and Neglect Victims, by Age, 2010

Percent of Victims:

  • Under 1 Year: 12.7
  • 1 Year: 7.4
  • 2 Years: 7.2
  • 3 Years: 6.7
  • 4-7 Years: 23.4
  • 8-11 Years: 18.7
  • 12-15 Years: 17.3
  • 16-17 Years: 6.2
  • Unknown: 0.4

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Children's Bureau. Child Maltreatment 2010. Accessed: May 17, 2012.