Child abuse and neglect is also a widespread problem in American society. Child maltreatment is commonly divided into four categories:
- physical abuse, characterized by physical injury resulting from beating, kicking, burning, or otherwise physically harming a child;
- neglect, which includes the failure to provide for the child's basic needs;
- sexual abuse, comprising a variety of sexual behaviors toward children; and
- emotional maltreatment, such as acts of commission or omission by the parents or other persons responsible for the child's care that have caused serious behavioral, cognitive, emotional or mental disorders.
The majority of all child protection reports (61 percent in 1996) involve the neglect of children. Neglect is especially predominant in child maltreatment reports in which the parent has a substance abuse problem.