In 1993, the Institute of Medicine presented a report entitled “Understanding Child Abuse and Neglect; recently the Children’s Bureau of the Administration of Children and Families asked the Institute for an update to see where we are as a nation 20 years later. The results were published online by JAMA Pediatrics.
According to the IOM report, there were 3.4 million child abuse and neglect referrals affecting 6.2 million children in 2011. Of those children, 75% were neglected, 18% were abused physically and 9% were sexually abused, with the highest incidents occurring in children under the age of 3.
The good news is the numbers in all categories have decreased since 1993; sexual abuse appears to have substantially declined since then.
However, the report suggests that in order to continue to mitigate child abuse, national agencies such as the CDC should work in tandem with state and local child protective service organizations and private foundations to further research and provide surveillance links throughout the United States.
Unsurprisingly, the greatest abuse risk factors include substance abuse, depression, and parental history of abuse and neglect. Additionally, a recent study led by Claude M Chemtob, PH.d of New York University discovered that mothers who suffer from PTSD are even more likely to mistreat their children than depressed mothers. Other studies have shown that parents who were abused as children are also more likely to be abusive themselves.
Long Term Consequences
Monetarily, the annual cost of child abuse is over $80 billion – but the societal cost of abuse far outweighs monetary considerations. Child abuse and neglect negatively affect all aspects of neurological development such as cognition.
That’s because childhood abuse and neglect actually changes brain chemistry. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, early abuse leads to an “altered physiological response” to stressful situations, leading to impaired socialization later on.
Bottom line: we’ve made progress, but it’s not enough – it not only takes a village to raise a child, it takes one to protect them.