Statistics Known About Child Abuse

The methods of statistics are so variable and uncertain, so apt to be influenced by circumstance, that it is never possible to be sure that one is operating with figures of equal weight.

Havelock Ellis, The Dance of Life

Statistics sometimes lie and are not reliable but are often the only gauge one has.

In 1992, 51 jursidictions reported that nearly 993,000 children had indicated that they were victims of maltreatment, or were substantiated in their claims of it. The kinds of maltreatment included neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, medical neglect and emotional or psychological abuse.

Child protective service agencies received reports of abuse and neglect in the United States and referred for investigation nearly 1.9 million reports alleging that nearly 2.9 million children were being maltreated. Professionals, including educators, law enforcement and justice officials, medical professionals, social services professionals and child care providers, accounted for nearly 52 percent of reports: friends and family members accounted for 27 percent. The remaining reports were made by persons in the community.

Based on the analysis of data from the 34 states from 1990 to 1993, the rate of children for whom the allegation of maltreatment that has been substantiated or indicated by victims has increased from 14 per 1,000 children to 16 per 1,000 children. Over the 3-year period, the rate of reporting has increased from 40 per 1,000 to 43 per 1,000 children.

The above findings are highlights from the annual collection of the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS) summary data from the states, terriories and other reporting jurisdictions. This document presents data collected from reports investigated by state agencies in 1992, contextualized with data collected by the
National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect in previous years.

This is the third annual data collection exercise. Fifty states, the District of Columbia, Guam, the Virgin Islands and all branches of the Armed Forces provided data on the NCANDS summary data component form for 1992. The data was collected from August 1993 to October 1993 and the agencies reviewed and confirmed their data between November 1993 and January 1994.

Educators were the source of 16 percent of reports received by 45 states, and were the most frequent source in 21 states. Representatives of law enforcement and justice agencies accounted for 12 percent of reports and were the most frequent source in nine states. Social services professionals accounted for 12 percent of reports and were the most frequent source in three states.

Anonymous sources accounted for 11 percent of reports and were the most frequent source in nine states. Professionals accounted for nearly 52 percent of reports. Friends, parents and other relatives also accounted for nearly 52 percent of reports. Victims, self-identified perpetrators, and anonymous and other reports accounts for 21 percent. (The percentage of reports totals more than 100 percent because one incidence of abuse or neglect may have been reported by more than one source.)

Forty-nine states provided data on approximately 1.6 million investigations. Fifty-four percent of the investigations resulted in a unsubstantiated disposition, and 41 percent of the investigation dispositions were closed without a finding.

Fifty-one jurisdictions reported that maltreatment of 992,617 children were substantiated and 3 percent were other dispositions.

Types of Maltreatment
Forty-nine states provided data on the types of abuse and neglect that 918,263 victims suffered. According to the reports, 49 percent of substantiated or suspected child victims suffered from neglect, 23 percent suffered from physical abuse, 14 percent from sexual abuse, 5 percent victims of emotional maltreatment, 3 percent of medical neglect, and 9 percent were victims of other types of maltreatment.

Many states count victims in more than one category when more than one type of abuse or neglect has occurred, and therefore the total percentage of victims by type of maltreatment is greater than 100 percent.

Neglect was the type with the highest rate, followed in descending order by physical abuse, sexual abuse, and emotional maltreatment.

Age of Victims
Forty-six states reported on the age of victims. Twenty-seven percent of children were age 3 and under, 57 percent were aged 4 to 7, with the median age for child victims being 6 years.

Sex of Victims
Based on the data from 46 states, male and female children were nearly equal victims of abuse and neglect.

Victims Removed From the Home
Thirty-nine states reported that approximately 134,000 children who were substantiated or indicated victims of maltreatment were removed from their homes. Based on data from 37 states, approximately 18 percent of these victims were removed. In 1992 several states reported decreases in the number of children removed from the home.

Court Action Initiated
Thirty states reported that court actions – such as filing for temporary custody, filing for guardianship, filing a dependency petition, and other such civil actions – were initiated for approximately 90,000 substantiated and indicated victims of maltreatment. Based on data from 28 states, court actions were initiated for approximately 17 percent of substantiated and indicated child victims. The figures are based upon 1992 analysis of national data.

Victims Receiving Additional Services
Twenty-eight states reported over 273,000 families of substantiated and indicated child victims received additional services during 1992. Twenty-five states reported that approximately 365,000 children received services during 1992. Children receiving services included, in some instances, siblings of child victims.

The number of victims and families served continues to be underreported due to the lack of linkage between the child abuse and neglect data systems and the actual number of families; some can track families but not child victims and about one-half of the states have no information at all in these areas.

Victims Who Died From Maltreatment
Many states have reported the number of children known by the Child Protective Service agency to have died due to maltreatment. Of the 42 states for which comparison between 1991 and 1992 can be made, 19 states reported increases in reported deaths, 20 reported decreases in reported deaths, and 3 reported no change. Forty-four states reported that 1,068 children died from abuse and neglect in 1992.

Currently there is increased attention to child fatalities caused by abuse. Other studies have been undertaken to develop national estimates of child deaths due to abuse.

The National Committee for Prevention of Child Abuse has projected a national total of 1,261 deaths in the 50 states based on 869 fatalities reported in 36 states in its annual telephone survey of state agencies.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Report estimates ranged from 949 to 2,022 child deaths per year.

Relationship of Perpetrators to Victims
Forty states provided data on the percentages of perpetrator/child victim relationships as follows: parents constituted 79 percent of perpetrators, other relatives 12 percent, noncaretakers 5 percent, foster parents, facility and child care staff 2 percent, and 1 percent were other than these.

In the United States, one in three girls and one in five boys will be sexually abused before they reach 18 years of age. Estimates reveal that more than 40 million people have been sexually abused, accounting for 10 percent of all American families.

Approximately one-third of molestations of females involve relatives, and males were generally abused by non-relatives. There is a higher incidence of sexual abuse being the source of psychiatric problems in children.

The average age of the onset of abuse is between the ages of 8 and 10 years of age, while 3 to 5 years is the average duration of abuse.
In 1991, the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect (NCCAN) funded new child abuse and neglect projects in the following areas:

•  graduate research fellowships in child abuse and neglect
•  research on juvenile sexual offenders
•  field-initiated research on child abuse and neglect including:
-  research on the neighborhood impact on child abuse
-  research to evaluate the effectiveness of community-based parent and child resilient peer training 
   to improve the social adjustment of the maltreating parent and the preschool victims of physical abuse
-  a study to examine both the intercedents and consequences of neglect in a high-risk group of children
-  research on the identification and prevention of child abuse in the children of cocaine-using mothers
-  a follow-up study to determine the relationship between the childhood victimization of boys and later 
   delinquent and other antisocial or pathological behavior
-  a project to review and synthesize research needs and priorities for the future

In 1993, the National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse conducted its annual survey of state child protective agencies. An estimated 2,989,000 children were reported to child protective services agencies as alleged victims of child maltreatment. Of these, 15 percent were for sexual abuse.

The reason that only 1992 data is available is that it takes that much time for all of the returns to be computed. The process is slow and marked by gradual stages of improvement as states join the national effort.

Every year the information system improves in their efforts to support agencies who serve children and families.

Resources on Child Abuse and Neglect

American Bar Association
National Legal Resource Center on Children and the Law
Suite 200
1800 M Street NW
Washington, DC 20036

American Humane Association
American Association for Protecting Children
9725 East Hampden Avenue
Denver, CO 80231

Child Welfare League of America, Inc.
440 First Street NW
Suite 310
Washington, DC 20001-2085
Phone: (202) 638-2952

Childhelp USA
440 Independence Avenue
Woodland Hills, CA 91367
Phone: (800) 4-A-CHILD

Children’s Defense Fund
122 C Street NW
4th Floor
Washington, DC 20001

Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect
P.O. Box 1182
Washington, DC 20013
Phone: (703) 821-2086

National Association of Counsel for Children
C. Henry Kempe National Center for the Prevention and Treatment of Child Abuse and Neglect
1295 Oneida Street
Denver, CO 80220
Phone: (303) 321-3963

National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
1835 K Street NW
Suite 700
Washington, DC 20006
Phone: (800) 843-5678

National Center for Prosecution of Child Abuse
American Prosecutors Research Institute
1033 N. Fairfax Street
Suite 200
Alexandria, VA 22314

National Child Safety Council
4065 Page Avenue West
P.O. Box 1368
Jackson, MI 49294
Phone: (517) 764-6070

National Committee for the Prevention of Child Abuse
4065 Page Avenue
Chicago, IL 60690
Phone: (312) 663-3520

National Association of Social Workers
7981 Eastern Avenue
Silver Spring, MD 20910

National Court Appointed Special Advocates Association
909 NE 43rd Street
Suite 202
Seattle, WA 98102

National Victims Resource Center
U.S. Department of Justice
Box 6000-AIQ
Rockville, MD 20850
Phone: (800) 627-6872

Parents Anonymous
6733 South Sepulveda Blvd.
Suite 270
Los Angeles, CA 90045
Phone: (213) 410-9732

Victims of Child Abuse Laws
P.O. Box 11335
Minneapolis, MN 55412

National Council on Child Abuse and Family Violence
1155 Connecticut Avenue NW
Suite 400
Washington, DC 20036
Phone: (202) 429-6695

The National Court Appointed Special Advocative Assoc.
2722 Eastlake Avenue
Suite 220
Seattle, WA 98102
Phone: (206) 328-8588

National Exchange Club Foundation for Prevention of Child Abuse
3050 Central Avenue
Toledo, OH 43606
Phone: (419) 535-3232

National Resource Center for Youth Services
The University of Oklahoma
202 West 8th Street
Tulsa, OK 74119-1414
Phone: (918) 585-2986

National Resource Center on Family-Based Services
The University of Iowa School of Social Work
112 North Hall
Iowa City, IA 55242
Phone: (319) 335-2200

Center for Child Welfare Policy Research
1250 I Street NW, Suite 503
Washington, DC 20005
Phone: (202) 371-1565

ABA Center on Children and the Law
American Bar Association
1800 M Street NW, Suite 200
Washington, DC 20036
Phone: (202) 331-2250

People of Color Leadership Institute
Center for Child Protection and Family Support
714 G Street SE
Washington, DC 20003
Phone: (202) 544-3144

National Resource on Child Sexual Abuse
106 Lincoln Street
Huntsville, AL 35801
Phone: (800) 543-7006

End Violence Against the Next Generation
977 Keeler Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94708-1498
Phone: (415) 527-0454

Child Assault Prevention Project
National Assault Prevention Center
P.O. Box 02005
Columbus, OH 43202

Child Protection Foundation
7441 Marvin D. Love Freeway, Suite 200
Dallas, TX 75237
Phone: (214) 709-0300

For Kids Sake, Inc.
31676 Railroad Canyon Road
Canyon Lake, CA 92380
Phone: (714) 244-9001

Federation on Child Abuse and Neglect
134 South Swan Street
Albany, NY 12210
Phone: (518) 445-1273

Incest Survivors Resource Network International
P.O. Box 7375
Las Cruces, NM 88006-7375
Phone: (505) 521-4260

Voices in Action
P.O. Box 148309
Chicago, IL

For Additional Reading

Bender, David and Bruno Leone. Child Abuse: Opposing Viewpoints. Katie de Hoster and Karen L. Swisher, eds. (San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press, Inc., 1994).

Besharov, Douglas J. Recognizing Child Abuse. (New York: The Free Press, 1990).

Cooney, Judith. Coping With Sexual Abuse. (New York: Rosen Publishing Group, 1987).

Creewds, John. By Silence Betrayed. (: Little, Brown and Company, 1988).

Fantona, Vincent J. Save the Family – Save the Child. (New York: Dutton Books, 1991).

Fassler, Jean. Helping Children Cope. (New York: Macmillan, 1978).

Forst, Martin L. and Martha-Ellen Blomquist. Missing Children. (New York: Lexington Books, 1991).

Hagans, Kathryn B. and Joyce Case. When Your Child Has Been Molested: A Parents’ Guide to Healing and Recovery. (: Lexington Books, 1988).

Haugoord, Jeffrey and N. Dickon Reppussi. The Sexual Abuse of Children. (San Francisco and London: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1988).

Hechler, David. The Battle and the Backlash. (New York: Lexington Books, 1989).

Herbuck, Christine Herbuck. Breaking the Cycle of Child Abuse. (: Winston Press, 1979).

Hewlett, Sylvia Ann. When the Bough Breaks. (New York: Basic Books, 1991).

Korbin, Jill R. Child Abuse and Neglect: Cross-Cultural Perspectives. (Berkeley and Los Angeles: Univ. of California Press, 1981).

Layman, Richard. Child Abuse. (Detroit: Omnigraphics Inc., 1990).

¾¾. Current Issues: Vol. I, Child Abuse. (Detroit: Omnigraphics, Inc.,1990).

Manshel, Lisa. Nap Time. (New York: William Morrow, 1990).

McCarthy, Ginny. The Ones Who Got Away. (: The Seal Press, 1987)..

Nelson, Barbara J. Making an Issue of Child Abuse. (Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1984).

Williams, Gertrude J. and John Money. Traumatic Abuse and Neglect of Children at Home. (: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1980).

Wurlele, Sandy K. and Cindy L. Mikler-Perrin. Preventing Child Sexual Abuse. (Lincoln and London: Univ. of Nebraska Press, 1992).