Children are suffering from a hidden epidemic of child abuse and neglect. It’s a widespread war against our children that we have the power to stop, and understanding the issue is the first step. Just how bad is the issue of child abuse in the United States?
A report of child abuse is made every ten seconds in the United States.
Every year, more than 4 million referrals are made to child protection agencies involving more than 4.3 million children (a referral can include multiple children).
The United States has one of the worst records among industrialized nations – losing on average 5 children every day to child abuse and neglect.
In 2019 alone, state agencies found over 656,000 victims of child maltreatment, but that only tells part of the story.1
This would pack 10 modern football stadiums.
Health Impacts of Child Abuse
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention links adverse childhood experiences (which include other household dysfunctions along with abuse and neglect) with a range of long-term health impacts.
Individuals who reported six or more adverse childhood experiences had an average life expectancy two decades shorter than those who reported none.
Ischemic heart disease (IHD), Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), liver disease and other health-related quality of life issues are tied to child abuse.2,3
In one study, 80% of 21-year-olds who reported childhood abuse met the criteria for at least one psychological disorder.4
Mental Health Disorders, Addictions and Related Issues
- Risk for intimate partner violence
- Alcoholism and alcohol abuse
- Illicit drug abuse
- Smoking & drinking at an early age
- Suicide attempts
Sexual & Reproductive Health Issues and Risk Factors
- Multiple sexual partners
- Sexually transmitted diseases
- Unintended pregnancies
- Early initiation of sexual activity
- Adolescent pregnancy and Fetal death
Financial Impacts of Child Abuse
The long-term financial impact of abuse and neglect is staggering.
For cases in 2015 alone, the estimated lifetime cost of lost worker productivity, health care costs, special education costs, child welfare expenditures, and criminal justice expenditures is over $830,000 per victim. The estimated U.S. economic burden of child maltreatment based on 2015 investigated incident cases (2,368,000 nonfatal and 1670 fatal victims) was $2 trillion.5
This could fund a college education for 70% of the children in the United States!6
Child Abuse Fatalities
We must learn to recognize early signs of abuse in order to help save the 5 children that die every day from child abuse and neglect.
In 2019, state agencies identified an estimated 1,840 children who died as a result of abuse and neglect — an average of five children a day.1 However, studies also indicate significant undercounting of child maltreatment fatalities by some state agencies by 50% or more.7
That’s roughly 25% of your child’s elementary school class!
More than 70% of the children who died as a result of child abuse or neglect were three years of age or younger. Around 80% of child maltreatment fatalities involve at least one parent as perpetrator.1
Behavioral Health and Crime Related to Child Abuse
Substance abuse and child maltreatment are tragically and undeniably linked. In a study of 513 children exposed to drugs while in-utero, rates of abuse were two to three times that of other children in the same geographical area.8
As many as two-thirds of the people in treatment for drug abuse reported being abused or neglected as children.9
14% of all men in prison and 36% of women in prison in the USA were abused as children, which is about twice the frequency seen in the general population.10
Children who experience child abuse and neglect are about 9 times more likely to become involved in criminal activity.10
2. CDC, Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)
3. Brown, D. et. al. Adverse Childhood Experiences and the Risk of Premature Mortality; Am. J. of Preventative Medicine (2009) Vol. 37, Iss. 5.
4. Amy B. Silverman, Helen Z. Reinherz, Rose M. Giaconia, The long-term sequelae of child and adolescent abuse: A longitudinal community study, Child Abuse & Neglect, Volume 20, Issue 8, August 1996, Pages 709-723.
5. Peterson, X., et al. The economic burden of child maltreatment in the United States, 2015. Child Abuse & Neglect (2018), doi: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2018.09.018.
8. Jaudes, P. K., Ekwo, E., & Van Voorhis, J. (1995). Association of drug abuse and child abuse. Child Abuse and Neglect, 19(9), 1065-1075.
9. Swan, N. (1998). Exploring the role of child abuse on later drug abuse: Researchers face broad gaps in information. NIDA Notes, 13(2).
10. Harlow, CW. Prior Abuse Reported by Inmates and Probationers. Washington, DC: US Dept. of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1999.