Child Abuse in America: What You Need to Know

Child abuse and neglect in America occur in staggering numbers. Isn’t it incomprehensible that our sophisticated country has such a problem? Yet, the U.S. is leading the industrialized world in incidences of child abuse and neglect. Do you know the facts? How can you help to stop the problem?

How many children die every day because of child abuse?

How do we stop child abuse?
More than five children die every day as a result of child abuse.

The Childhelp Website publishes national statics and consequences regarding child neglect and abuse. Below is a summary of their findings.

Children are suffering from a hidden epidemic of child abuse and neglect. Every year 3.3 million reports of child abuse are made in the United States involving nearly 6 million children (a report can include multiple children). The United States has the worst record in the industrialized nation – losing five children every day due to abuse-related deaths. 

Staggering statistics

  • A report of child abuse is made every ten seconds (about as long as it takes to blink twice.)
  • More than five children die every day as a result of child abuse.
  • Approximately 80% of children that die from abuse are under the age of 4.
  • It is estimated that between 50-60% of child fatalities due to maltreatment are not recorded as such on death certificates.
  • More than 90% of juvenile sexual abuse victims know their perpetrator in some way.
  • Child abuse occurs at every socioeconomic level, across ethnic and cultural lines, within all religions and at all levels of education.
  • About 30% of abused and neglected children will later abuse their own children, continuing the horrible cycle of abuse.
  • About 80% of 21-year-olds that were abused as children met criteria for at least one psychological disorder.
  • The estimated annual cost of child abuse and neglect in the United States for 2008 is $124 billion.
  • 14% of all men in prison in the U.S. were abused as children.
  • 36% of all women in prison were abused as children.
  • Children who experience child abuse and neglect are 59% more likely to be arrested as a juvenile, 28% more likely to be arrested as an adult, and 30% more likely to commit violent crime.
  • One-third to two-thirds of child maltreatment cases involve substance use to some degree.
  • Children whose parents abuse alcohol and other drugs are three times more likely to be abused and more than four times more likely to be neglected than children from non-abusing families.
  • As many as two-thirds of the people in treatment for drug abuse reported being abused or neglected as children.
  • Abused children are 25% more likely to experience teen pregnancy.
  • Abused teens are less likely to practice safe sex, putting them at greater risk for STDs.

How do we answer the insidious child abuse issue?

It is one thing to review raw, tragic statistics and another entirely to realize these statistics clearly indicate the impact of child abuse and neglect to families, drug use, pregnancy, and associated health issues. The cost is millions of dollars. The cost to lives and relationships, incalculable.

Preventative efforts are many, but progress is slow. Our systems of care are struggling to keep up with the pervasiveness of this scourge. While a problem of this magnitude is not easily solved, I do believe we have some answers that can, over time, reduce child abuse and neglect.

I believe we must take a comprehensive approach not only to protect our children, but also to manage the issue at the the root or family level. No single approach will solve a problem this complex, this large. 

However, whatever approaches we choose, we need to be very intentional about them in order to foster the process of change that will begin to manifest and improve the significant issues and consequences of child abuse and neglect in our country.

Stay tuned for more on this topic and thanks for reading Lakeside Connect

Gerry Vassar, President/CEO, Lakeside Educational Network

Note: Over 50 years ago, Sara O’Meara and Yvonne Fedderson founded Childhelp to protect children and families from child abuse.


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