The estimate is higher than the average 0.8 percent of children who
are found to be victims of maltreatment during any given year,
according to the study’s lead author.
“That 12.5 percent of children get to a point where their
maltreatment is confirmed highlights just how big of a risk factor
this is for children,” said Christopher Wildeman.
Even that may be a dramatic underestimate because there could be
cases that can’t be confirmed or others that go unreported, Wildeman,
a sociologist at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, told
Maltreatment can encompass everything from neglect to physical,
mental and sexual abuse.
Beyond the immediate danger to the child, Wildeman said maltreatment
may have long-lasting effects, too.
“These instances of neglect are extreme enough that they could have
really detrimental effects on the children for the long haul,” he
For their study, the researchers used data on 5.7 million children
with confirmed reports of maltreatment between 2004 and 2011
included in the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System Child
They estimate about one in eight children will experience
maltreatment by age 18, based on the 2011 rates.
Those rates are higher among minority children, with one in five
black children estimated to experience maltreatment by adulthood and
one in seven Native Americans.
Wildeman and his colleagues write in JAMA Pediatrics that black
children are about as likely to be victims of confirmed child
maltreatment as they are to complete college.
Children were most at risk of maltreatment during their first few
years of life, with about 6 percent experiencing some kind of abuse
or neglect by the time they were five years old, the researchers
[to top of second column]
Additional research on child maltreatment and abuse-prevention
programs should be the next step, Wildeman said.
“Anybody who does work on child health and inequalities should
incorporate child maltreatment in a more substantial way,” he said.
Last year, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, a U.S.
government-backed panel, found additional research is needed to
conclude whether office- or home-based child maltreatment programs
are effective at preventing abuse (see Reuters Health story of June
10, 2013 here: http://reut.rs/1mK1dos.)
“I think people sweep it under the rug because it’s so rare, but
these data show we can’t do that anymore,” Wildeman said.
SOURCE: http://bit.ly/1adWrco JAMA Pediatrics, online June 2, 2014.
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