Trends in the Well-Being of America's Children and Youth, 2000. HC 2.6 Abuse and Neglect

01/01/2000

Abuse and neglect cause physical and/or emotional harm to children. They can produce short-term psychological consequences that range from poor peer relations to violent behavior, as well as untold long-term psychological and economic consequences when children reach adulthood.32 They can result in serious injury or, in extreme cases, death.

According to data from the most comprehensive annual data collection efforts undertaken to date, there were an estimated 903,395 child victims of maltreatment in 1998 (see Table HC 2.6). Of these cases, 23 percent were classified as physical abuse, 12 percent as sexual abuse, 54 percent as neglect, 2 percent as medical neglect, 6 percent as emotional maltreatment, and 26 percent as “other” or “unknown” types of maltreatment.33

Between 1990 and 1994, the total estimated number of victims increased by 20 percent from 860,577 to 1,029,118 in 1994. However, between 1994 and 1998, the total estimated number of victims fell by 12 percent from 1,209,118 to 903,395.

The number of victims shown in Table HC 2.6 may substantially understate the actual number of victims of maltreatment. In order for a child to be included in these counts, a report must first be made to child welfare authorities, an investigation undertaken, and a determination made that maltreatment occurred.

\Another data source, the third National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect, yields a much higher estimate of the total number of cases of child maltreatment—possibly as high as 2.8 million children in 1993. This study includes (1) all cases determined to be substantiated or indicated by child protective services34 and (2) cases known to community professionals but not necessarily reported to child protective services (in a representative sample of counties).

Differences by Race. Black children, who account for about 15 percent of the child population, constituted 25 percent of all child abuse and neglect victims in 1998. Whites accounted for 55 percent of all victims and Hispanics 12 percent of all victims (see Table HC 2.6).

Differences by Age. No age group accounts for an obviously disproportionate share of abuse and neglect victims. In 1998, infants age 1 and under accounted for 14 percent of all victims; children ages 2 to 5 accounted for 24 percent; children ages 6 to 9 accounted for 25 percent; children ages 10 to 13 accounted for 20 percent, and children ages 14 to 17 accounted for 15 percent (see Table HC 2.6).

Table HC 2.6 Victims of child maltreatment in the United States. Substantiated incidences by type of maltreatment, race/ethnicity, gender and age: 1990-1998

  1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998
Number of victims, per 1,000 childrena 860,577 911,690 994,655 1,026,331 1,029,118 1,005,511 1,011,973 956,711 903,395
Type of sustantiated maltreatmentb
Neglect 49 46 50 49 52 52 52 55 54
Physical Abuse 27 26 23 24 24 24 24 24 23
Sexual Abuse 17 16 14 14 14 13 12 12 12
Psychological or Emotional 7 6 5 5 5 4 6 6 6
Abuse or Neglectc 0 2 3 2 2 3 3 2 2
Other and Unknown 10 13 21 17 16 17 19 12 26
Gender
Male 44 45 45 41 41 40 39 40 47
Female 50 52 51 47 46 45 43 44 51
Unknown 7 3 4 11 14 15 17 16 2
Age of victimd
1 year and younger 13 14 13 12 12 11 11 11 14
2 to 5 years old 24 25 25 23 23 23 22 21 24
6 to 9 years old 22 23 23 21 20 21 21 21 25
10 to 13 years old 19 20 19 18 17 17 16 17 20
14-17 years old 14 15 15 14 13 13 13 12 15
18 and over 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 0 1
Unknown 8 4 5 12 14 15 18 18 2
Race/ethnicity of victime
White 5 56 53 51 48 47 50 49 55
African American 25 27 27 25 25 24 22 22 25
American Indian/Alaska Native 1 1 1 1 1 1 2 2 2
Asian/Pacific Islander 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
Other races 1 2 2 1 1 2 3 3 2
Hispanic origin 10 10 10 9 9 9 9 9 12
Unknown race 9 5 6 13 15 16 14 25 14

a For the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The number of reporting states on which these estimates are based varies from year to year.

b More than one type of maltreatment may be substantiated per child. Therefore, the percentage total may add up to more than 100.

c Medical neglect was not reported in 1990.

d Some states have included persons ages 18 and older in their statistics on child abuse and neglect. Because these persons are considered victims of child maltreatment under the laws of their state, statistics in this table include these persons. Such individuals accounted for fewer than 1 percent of all victims.

Note: All data presented are from the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS), which annually collects information from state child protective agencies. Because state agencies may modify or correct data submitted in a previous year, some findings differ from previously published data. Also, subgroup percentages may be based on data from fewer states than the number of states contributing to the total because all states do not provide demographic information. Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children's Bureau, 2000.


32 Many studies have demonstrated a correlation between child abuse and neglect and serious adult problems, including violence, incarceration, and mental illness. However, these studies have not been able to separate the effects of child abuse and neglect from other factors that are correlated with it, including poverty, education, parenting skills, etc.

33 These percentages add up to over 100 because individual cases may include more than one type of maltreatment.

34 According to the National Incidence Study, in 1993, only 28 percent of maltreatment cases identified by the study were investigated—a significant decrease from the 44 percent investigated in 1986. The cause of this drop is not clear.

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