Researchers used the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System Child File to estimate that about 1 in 8 children will suffer such mistreatment by age 18. The U.S. Health and Human Services Department finds that about 1 in 100 children annually experience abuse and neglect.
The research, published today in JAMA Pediatrics, drew from confirmed cases of neglect and abuse as reported by child protective services agencies across the country, showing that more than 5.6 million children had suffered maltreatment from 2004 to 2011. Children who are black, Native American and Hispanic suffer the highest rates compared with kids who are white or Asian/Pacific Islander, the research found.
“Child maltreatment is common,” Christopher Wildeman, an associate professor of sociology at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, said in a telephone interview. “It’s unequally distributed and if we don’t think about public policies that seek to diminish child maltreatment, we’re not only leading ourselves to have a less healthy generation of children, we’re also potentially allowing racial disparities in childhood maltreatment to grow.”
Maltreatment in childhood is associated with higher rates of death, obesity, mental health issues, including suicide, and criminal behavior, the authors said. It costs $124 billion in the U.S. a year and lifetime per-person costs are higher than or comparable with those of diseases like stroke and diabetes, they said.
Girls had a higher risk for maltreatment than boys. Black children had a 21 percent likelihood of maltreatment by age 18 compared with 15 percent for Native Americans, 13 percent for Hispanics, 11 percent for whites and 3.8 percent for Asian/Pacific Islander children.
The majority of the confirmed maltreatment is considered neglect, which includes inadequate supervision, Wildeman said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Nicole Ostrow in New York at firstname.lastname@example.org