April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, which is celebrated by CDC (Centers for Disease Prevention and Control). In doing so, the Division of Violence Prevention at CDC works to better understand the problem of child abuse and neglect and to prevent it before it begins.
Key Facts about Child Abuse and Neglect
Child abuse and neglect are major public health problems in the United States. For example, more than 1,670 children died in the United States in 2015 from abuse and neglect.
- According to child protective service agencies, about 683,000 children were victims of child abuse or neglect in 2015.
- One in 4 children have experienced abuse or neglect at some point in their lives, and 1 in 7 children experienced abuse in the last year, according to self-reports from the National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence (NatSCEV).
- The financial costs for victims and society are substantial. A CDC study showed the total lifetime cost associated with just 1 year of confirmed cases of child abuse or neglect is $124 billion.
Abused children often suffer physical injuries including cuts, bruises, burns, and broken bones. However, physical injury is not the only negative impact of abuse and neglect—it can also affect lifelong health including:
- Mental health.
- Social development.
- Risk-taking behavior (e.g., smoking, high-risk sexual behaviors, and drug abuse).
- Life opportunities (e.g., educational attainment, employment, and income).
Child abuse and neglect includes all types of abuse or neglect of a child under the age of 18 by a parent, caregiver, or another person in a custodial role that results in harm, potential for harm, or threat of harm to a child.
Four Common Types of Child Abuse and Neglect:
- Physical abuse – The use of physical force, such as hitting, kicking, shaking, burning, or other shows of force against a child.
- Sexual abuse – Inducing or coercing a child to engage in sexual acts. It includes behaviors such as fondling, penetration, and exposing a child to other sexual activities.
- Emotional abuse – Behaviors that harm a child’s self-worth or emotional well-being. Examples include name calling, shaming, rejection, withholding love, and threatening.
- Neglect – Failure to meet a child’s basic physical and emotional needs. These needs include housing, food, clothing, education, and access to medical care.
Child abuse and neglect cause toxic stress that can disrupt early brain development and harm the nervous and immune systems. Exposure to childhood abuse can increase a person’s risk for future violence, unhealthy relationship behaviors, and poor health and wellness. This impact can be long-lasting and may continue across future generations.
Safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments are essential to prevent child abuse and neglect.
Child Abuse and Neglect Are Preventable
CDC works to stop child abuse and neglect before they occur. In doing this, CDC promotes the development of safe, stable, and nurturing relationships and environments between children and their parents or caregivers. Children’s experiences are defined through their environments (such as homes, schools, and neighborhoods) and their relationships with parents, teachers, and other caregivers. Healthy relationships and environments act as a buffer against adverse experiences and are necessary to ensure the long-term physical and emotional well-being of children.
Essentials for Parenting CDC Resource
In 2014, CDC released the Essentials for Parenting Toddlers and Preschoolers(https://www.cdc.gov/parents/essentials/) online resource. This free resource, now also available in Spanish(https://www.cdc.gov/parents/spanish/essentials/index.html), provides a unique opportunity for parents to receive evidence-based parenting information from a trustworthy source, CDC.
Remember the Health Power motto: Knowledge + Action = Power!