Child Maltreatment Rates High

Abuse and neglect of children occurred more often than realized

(RxWiki News) It is estimated that about 1 percent of all children experience maltreatment each year. But the figures for maltreatment throughout childhood may be much higher.

A recent study attempted to estimate how many children experienced confirmed maltreatment at any point before turning 18 years old.

Maltreatment includes any form of confirmed abuse or neglect.

The researchers found the numbers to be much higher than 1 percent. About one in every eight children was maltreated at some point in their childhood.

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This study, led by Christopher Wildeman, PhD, of the Department of Sociology at Yale University in Connecticut, looked at the rates of maltreatment among all US children.

The authors used data from two main sources. One was the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System Child File, containing nearly 5.7 million reports of confirmed maltreatment between 2004 and 2011. About 80 percent of these cases involved neglect rather than abuse.

This data was used in conjunction with data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on all US children.

In looking at all the data over those eight years, the authors found that the rate of first-time reports of confirmed maltreatment remained about the same each year.

Therefore, the researchers used the rates in 2011 to estimate prevalence of maltreatment for all children in the US.

In 2011, approximately 670,000 cases of confirmed child maltreatment were reported, representing about 0.9 percent of all US children.

Of these, 492,400 cases were being reported for the first time for those children. These were the cases used in the overall analysis.

The researchers calculated that about 12.5 percent of all children experienced confirmed maltreatment at least once by the time they turned 18.

This figure included 12 percent of all boys and 13 percent of all girls, but the rate varied by much more based on racial/ethnic groups.

Whereas 10.7 percent of white children experienced maltreatment at least once in their childhood, about twice as many black children (20.9 percent) experienced maltreatment.

Those at lowest risk were Asian/Pacific Islanders, among whom 3.8 percent experienced maltreatment.

The two groups trailing black children were Native Americans and Hispanics, among whom 14.5 percent and 13 percent, respectively, experienced maltreatment.

The risk was also highest for the youngest children: 2.1 percent of all children had their first report of maltreatment by age 1, and 5.8 percent had one by age 5.

"The results from this analysis — which provides cumulative rather than annual estimates — indicate that confirmed child maltreatment is common, on the scale of other major public health concerns that affect child health and well-being," the authors wrote.

This study was published June 2 in the journal JAMA Pediatrics. Information on funding was unavailable. The authors reported no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
June 2, 2014