A Sept. 12 report issued by the National Academy of Science’s Institute of Medicine (IOM) finds that while the rates of physical and sexual abuse of children have declined over the last 20 years, rates of neglect, including psychological and emotional abuse, have gone up.
The new report updates a 1993 National Research Council report and is meant to advise federal policy makers and Congress.
The IOM also reported that each year child protective services receives more than 3 million referrals for child abuse and neglect that involve around 6 million children. In 2011 – the latest year for which data is available – state protective services encountered 676,569 children, or about nine out of every 1,000 children in the U.S., who were victims of physical, psychological or sexual abuse, or other types of neglect.
Other findings include:
- Boys and girls are at the same risk of neglect and abuse.
- In 80 percent of the cases it’s parents who inflict the neglect and abuse, and of this group, 87 percent are biological parents.
- More than half the time, the perpetrators of neglect are women.
“Child abuse and neglect are a serious public health problem that has broader and longer-lasting effects than bruises, broken bones, or psychological trauma," said Anne Petersen, PhD, chair of the committee that wrote the report and a research professor at the Center for Human Growth and Development at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, in the IOM news release.
“The impacts cascade throughout the victims’ lifetime, not only affecting them but also their families and society,” added Petersen.
The report committee called child neglect “a pervasive and pernicious problem in the United States,” while acknowledging that unreported cases contribute to discrepancies between actual numbers and recorded cases of neglect and abuse.
Committee members also admitted that they cannot fully explain why neglect cases have increased while sexual and physical abuse cases have declined. These uncertainties, they said, hamper understanding the problem’s cause and consequences as well as determining effective prevention and treatment interventions.
To better understand these trends, the committee recommended an “immediate, coordinated” national strategy to better understand, treat and prevent child abuse and neglect. It also advocated for the creation of a national surveillance system that links data across multiple systems and sources.