Child Abuse Statistics

Although decreasing, child abuse affects almost one in 100 kids

Mixed race boy with black eye
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Although the incidence of child abuse and neglect has been decreasing, at least 683,000 children, or almost one in every 100 children in the United States, were abused in 2015, the most recent year for which we have statistics. It takes a while to gather statistics, which is why the data from 2015 was released by the Children’s Bureau in January 2017.

Neglect is the most common form of child abuse which affects about 75 percent of child abuse victims. Neglect is defined as a parent or guardian fails to provide for their child's basic needs. Forms of neglect include medical, educational, physical, and emotional neglect.

Another 25 percent of children were victims of abuse, including physical abuse, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse. Nearly five children die every day as a result of child abuse or neglect.

Child Abuse Demographics

No group of children is immune from being a victim of child abuse or neglect, although girls are more often the victims of sexual abuse than boys. For all other types of abuse and neglect, statistics are about equal for boys and girls. Although children of all ages experience abuse and neglect, it is the youngest children that are the most vulnerable; almost 27 percent of the victims of child abuse and neglect are under the age of three years.

Children of all races and ethnicities can be victims of child abuse. In 2015, nearly half of all victims of child abuse and neglect were Caucasian, one-fifth were African-American, and one-fifth were Hispanic. Children in low socioeconomic families have more than three times the rate of child abuse and seven times the rate of neglect than other children.

Children whose parents are unemployed have about two times the rate of child abuse and two to three times the rate of neglect than children with employed parents. Living with their married biological parents places kids at the lowest risk for child abuse and neglect while living with a single parent and a live-in partner increased the risk of abuse and neglect to more than eight times that of other children.

Reporting Child Abuse and Neglect

In 2015, more than half (57 percent) of all child abuse cases and reports made to CPS agencies came from professionals who came in contact with the child including teachers, lawyers, police officers, and social workers. Many people in these professions are required by law to report suspected abuse or neglect.

However, many reports came from non-professional sources, such as parents, other relatives, friends, and neighbors. Anonymous reports accounted for 9 percent of all reports.

It is important for everyone to know the signs of child abuse and how to report it. We all share a responsibility to help keep children safe as we take steps to prevent child abuse from occurring in the first place.

The average time for CPS to initiate a response to a report of child abuse is 73 hours, although they might respond to a high-priority case in just 24 hours.

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Article Sources

  • National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System. Child Maltreatment 2015.
  • U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services. Fourth National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect. Report to Congress.