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Child Abuse Statistics

Child Abuse Basics

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Updated January 29, 2014

Child Abuse Statistics

How many children are abused and neglected in the United States?

Although the incidence of child abuse and neglect has been decreasing in recent years, at least 686,000 children, or almost 1 in every 100 children in the United States, were abused in 2012.

The majority (75 percent) of the children were victims of neglect (531,241 children), meaning a parent or guardian failed to provide for the child's basic needs. Forms of neglect include medical neglect (15,705 children), educational neglect, physical neglect, and emotional neglect.

Another 25 percent were victims of abuse, including physical abuse (124,544 children), sexual abuse (62,936 children), and emotional abuse.

An average of nearly five children die every day as a result of child abuse or neglect (1,593 in 2012).

Child Abuse Victims

Who is more likely to be abused or neglected?

No group of children is immune from being a victim of child abuse or neglect, although girls are more often the victims of sexual abuse than boys. For all other types of abuse and neglect, statistics are about equal for boys and girls.

Children of all races and ethnicities can be victims of child abuse. In 2012, nearly one-half of all victims of child abuse and neglect were White (44%), one-fifth (21%) were African-American, and one-fifth (21.8%) were Hispanic.

Although children of all ages experience abuse and neglect, it is the youngest children that are the most vulnerable, with almost 27% of the victims of child abuse and neglect being under the age of three years.

Reporting Child Abuse

Who reports child abuse and neglect?

In 2012, more than one-half (57 percent) of all child abuse cases and reports made to CPS agencies came from professionals who came in contact with the child, including teachers, lawyers, police officers, and social workers. Many people in these professions are required by law to report suspected abuse or neglect.

However, many reports (18 percent) came from nonprofessional sources, such as parents, other relatives, friends, and neighbors.

Anonymous reports accounted for 9 percent of all reports in 2011.

It is important for everyone to know the signs of child abuse and how to report it. We all share a responsibility to help keep children safe as we take steps to prevent child abuse from occurring in the first place.

More Child Abuse Statistics

Other child abuse statistics from the "Fourth National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect" include that:

  • the average time for CPS to initiate a response to a report of child abuse is 71 hours, although they might respond to a high-priority case in just 24 hours
  • children whose parents are unemployed have about two times the rate of child abuse and two to three times the rate of neglect than children with employed parents
  • children in low socioeconomic families have more than three times the rate of child abuse and seven times the rate of neglect than other children
  • living with their married biological parents places kids at the lowest risk for child abuse and neglect, while living with a single parent and a live-in partner increased the risk of abuse and neglect to more than eight times that of other children
 

Sources:

National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System. Child Maltreatment 2012. Accessed January 2014. http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/resource/child-maltreatment-2012

U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services. Fourth National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect. Report to Congress. Accessed January 2010. http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/opre/abuse_neglect/natl_incid/index.html

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