No matter you knowledge on child maltreatment (CM) this page provides foundation of statistics and information about CM in a simple way as well as additional facts for those already in the field. We have broken down the complex issue into different aspects of society, from commerce, state law, treatment to research.

Although some researchers make a distinction between them, the term Child Maltreatment is used to refer to physical, emotional, sexual abuse and or neglect, including exploitation, and trafficking.

Click each topic to expand and explore the linked sources.

Definition of Maltreatment

World Health Organization Definition

“Child maltreatment is the abuse and neglect that occurs to children under 18 years of age. It includes all types of physical and/or emotional ill-treatment, sexual abuse, neglect, negligence and commercial or other exploitation, which results in actual or potential harm to the child’s health, survival, development or dignity in the context of a relationship of responsibility, trust or power. Exposure to intimate partner violence is also sometimes included as a form of child maltreatment.”

more information

Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA)

“Any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation”; or “An act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm.”

more information

Incidence and Prevalence in the U.S.

“There were 676,000 victims of child abuse and neglect reported to child protective services in 2016”

As in prior years, the greatest percentages of children suffered from neglect (74.8%) and physical abuse (18.2%).

A non-CPS study estimated that 1 in 4 children experience some form of child abuse or neglect in their lifetimes and 1 in 7 children have experienced abuse or neglect in the last year

About 1,750 children died from abuse or neglect in 2016.

For FFY 2016, approximately 3.5 million children were the subjects of at least one report.

The national estimate of children who received a child protective services investigation response or alternative response increased 9.5% from 2012 (3,172,000) to 2016 (3,472,000)”

The national rate of child fatalities was 2.36 deaths per 100,000 children.

37 percent of U.S. children prior to their 18th birthday are the subject of an investigated child neglect and abuse report — and 53 percent of black children. 

There are multiple barriers to identifying, screening, intervening and preventing child maltreatment.

Underreporting & Mandated Reporting

Child maltreatment is underreported in the United States. Mandatory reporting laws require various professionals to make reports, thereby helping to reduce underreporting of child maltreatment.

However, professionals may fail to report suspicions of maltreatment despite mandatory reporting policies.

Current research efforts include exploring why this occurs.

‘Siloing’ of Services

In the US there are multiple separate services that come in contact with children. Through the past century, the names of these separate services, or siloes have changed.

We now refer to them using like “health system,” “child welfare system,” “educational system,” “juvenile justice system,” and so on.

However, the number of these services has become problematic because these services are structured by different policies, in different buildings and embedded in different parts of government.

As a result, imagining collaboration, communication and coordinated efforts to improve child maltreatment is burdened due to these large scale structural separation in services that interact with kids either directly or otherwise*

The SMART Center Project aims to create a common core structure for reporting child maltreatment which states and organizations may be able to use in efforts to create a better system of maltreatment reporting and modeling across state lines to improve child social and health outcomes.

*i.e. adult criminal court can impact a child’s supervision, resources, and attachment.

State Laws

Different jurisdictions like states, territories and Nations have developed their own definitions of what constitutes child abuse for the purposes of removing children from their families or prosecuting a criminal charge.

However, these laws are not uniform because there is no universal definition of child maltreatment for all states. There has been federal laws like CAPTA which gives guidelines to states. For more information, select Definitions of Maltreatment topic.

As a result, differences in state definitions make child maltreatment surveillance difficult.

This creates a barrier in observation, screening, intervention and prevention efforts.

For each US state’s definition of Child Abuse we suggest this resource.

Economic Impact

The total lifetime economic burden resulting from new cases of fatal and nonfatal child maltreatment in the United States in 2008 is approximately $124 billion. In sensitivity analysis, the total burden is estimated to be as large as $585 billion.

Briefs

See our, current and completed briefs on our Research and Resources page.

To learn more about the CICM’s Center Projects, click here.

Housing

Families and children make up approximately one-third of the nation’s homeless population, putting those children at greater risk of neglect or being placed in out-of-home care.

Listen to how San Francisco—one of the most expensive places to live—is responding to this challenge through a partnership between child welfare and local housing agencies.

Through a Children’s Bureau grant, the Families Moving Forward project (later named Bringing Families Home) connects child welfare agencies with local housing partners to reduce barriers and help families sustain stability and well-being for their children.

In this two-part conversation, Jocelyn Everroad from the San Francisco Human Service Agency and Kylie Woodall, a lead housing specialist with the Homeless Prenatal Program, share how it all works, and how to create effective working relationships.

For more on why housing stability is essential to improving child welfare outcomes, visit these resources.

These facts and statistics are updated often. Check back here for new categories and you’re welcome contact us with questions or contributions. Contact us at CICM@wustl.edu

“Child abuse and neglect is a widespread and complex problem, linked to a number of negative downstream outcomes and incurring substantial costs across individual, family and societal levels,” – Dr. Melissa Jonson-Reid