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Child Abuse Prevention

Child Abuse Basics


Updated April 07, 2013

Child abuse statistics show that almost 700,000 children are the victims of child abuse or neglect in the United States each year, and about 1,500 of these children die.

Effects of Child Abuse

For the survivors of child abuse, the effects include:

  • long-term physical problems, including physical disabilities
  • behavioral problems
  • psychological problems
  • difficulties in school and social relationships
  • criminal behavior and a high risk of being arrested for a violent crime as a juvenile or adult

Another big consequence of child abuse is the direct and indirect cost associated with child abuse, which have been estimated to be about $94 billion each year, including child welfare, law enforcement and special education.

Child Abuse Prevention

One good way to prevent child abuse is to recognize risk factors that are associated with child abuse, including:

  • substance abuse
  • domestic violence
  • a personal history of child abuse
  • poverty
  • lack of parenting skills
  • a small social support network

And then, in addition to supporting programs that target those high risk groups to prevent child abuse, such as education programs, parent support groups, and mentoring, some good child abuse prevention strategies include learning the signs of child abuse and how to report suspected child abuse.

Groups that support child abuse prevention that you could get involved with include:

Signs of Child Abuse

Since child abuse is so common, recognizing the signs of child abuse, including physical abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect, can be a good way to help prevent further abuse of these children. This is especially important for people who have regular contact with children, such as teachers, coaches, and friends and family members of these children.

Some signs of child abuse can include, but aren't limited to:

  • sudden changes in a child's behavior
  • a child with unexplained bruises or burns, etc.
  • the child's medical problems are not being cared for properly, for example, he may have regular asthma attacks or a lingering cough and hasn't been to the doctor
  • a child being left without adult supervision
  • a parent who doesn't seem to have appropriate concern for her children
  • families who seem to have entirely negative relationships
  • a child who isn't dressed appropriately in cold weather, is dirty, or frequently misses school
  • a child who talks about age-inappropriate sexual behaviors

Child Abuse Hotlines

If you suspect that a child is being abused, you should report it right away.

There are many reasons why people don't report child abuse, such as:

  • not wanting to get involved
  • not being sure if it really is child abuse
  • they aren't sure how to make a report of child abuse
  • thinking that someone else will do it
  • not being aware of child abuse laws in their states, which could make reporting mandatory for certain people
  • being afraid of getting in trouble for filing a report if the child isn't really being abused, which doesn't happen as long as you are making the report in good faith

None of these reasons is going to help a child who is being abused though, especially if they are in a life threatening situation. What if you're wrong? The local child welfare agency will likely do an investigation. If you are right and stop the abuse, you may change or save a child's life.

To report child abuse, in addition to the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline (1-800-4-A-CHILD), you can call your state child welfare agency's child abuse hotline.

In an emergency situation, call 911.


National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System. Child Maltreatment 2011. Accessed April 2013. http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/resource/child-maltreatment-2011

Thomas. Emerging Practices in the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect. Office on Child Abuse and Neglect, Children's Bureau (2003).

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