Who Does Child Abuse and Neglect Affect?

Child abuse and neglect can affect any child younger than age 18, and occurs across socioeconomic, religious, ethnic and educational backgrounds. In 2011, reports of abuse and neglect signaled that boys and girls are similarly affected, with 48.6 percent male and 51.1 percent female who are the subjects of reports of child abuse and neglect.1

The true occurrence of child abuse may be higher than Child Protective Services (CPS) indicates, because abuse is not always recognized or reported by adults. Non-CPS studies, such as the National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence, the nation’s most comprehensive study of children’s exposure to violence, indicates that one in five children have been reported to suffer some form of child abuse or neglect.2

On average, more than five children die every day as a result of child abuse or neglect. Approximately 82 percent of these children are under the age of four, making early childhood the most high-risk time.3 Within that age bracket, children are the most vulnerable in their first year of life.

Of the 6.2 million children reported to Child Protective Services as potential victims of child abuse in 2011, the government confirmed that there were 681,000 cases of child abuse and neglect. Of the 681,000 children affected by abuse, there were 1,570 fatalities, with 81.6 percent of the deaths occurring in children younger than 4 years old.

In addition, up to 15.5 million children witness violence domestic violence in their homes every year.

Regardless of whether a child have been abused or not, developing safe environments for children and positive parenting skills as adults is imperative for children. They determine a child’s ability to thrive. If left unaddressed, the impacts of child abuse can also have effects in the generations to come. When a child is abused or witnesses abuse, he or she learns that violence is a method used to control others and may consciously or unconsciously repeat the cycle of abuse as an adult. However, it is important to note that most adult survivors of childhood abuse do not go on to become abusers as adults. For many survivors, their childhood experiences may motivate them to protect their children and end the cycle of violence in their family.4

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1 United States Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Children’s Bureau, Child Maltreatment 2011, (2012), N.p.

2 Finkelhor, David. "Children's Exposure to Violence: A Comprehensive National Survey," Office of Justice Programs, Centers for Disease Control, (Oct. 2009).

United States Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Children’s Bureau, Child Maltreatment 2010, (2011), www.acf.hhs.gov.

4 Smith, Melinda and Segal, Jeanne, “Child Abuse & Neglect: Recognizing, Preventing, and Reporting Child Abuse,” (June 2013), www.helpguide.org.

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