By Karen Peart
By the time they reach age 18, about 12 % of American children experience a confirmed case of maltreatment in the form of neglect, physical, sexual or emotional abuse, research reports.
The numbers are even more sobering for black and Native American children, with one in five black children and one in seven Native American children experiencing maltreatment during the time period studied.
For the study published in JAMA Pediatrics, researchers estimated the cumulative prevalence of confirmed childhood maltreatment by age 18 using the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System Child File, which includes information on all US children with a confirmed report of maltreatment.
By the Numbers
At 2011 rates, 12.5% (95% CI, 12.5%-12.6%) of US children will experience a confirmed case of maltreatment by 18 years of age. Girls have a higher cumulative prevalence (13.0% [95% CI, 12.9%-13.0%]) than boys (12.0% [12.0%-12.1%]). Black (20.9% [95% CI, 20.8%-21.1%]), Native American (14.5% [14.2%-14.9%]), and Hispanic (13.0% [12.9%-13.1%]) children have higher prevalences than white (10.7% [10.6%-10.8%]) or Asian/Pacific Islander (3.8% [3.7%-3.8%]) children.
The risk for maltreatment is highest in the first few years of life; 2.1% (95% CI, 2.1%-2.1%) of children have confirmed maltreatment by 1 year of age, and 5.8% (5.8%-5.9%), by 5 years of age. Estimates from 2011 were consistent with those from 2004 through 2010.
--From JAMA Pediatrics
Analysis of data between 2004 and 2011 showed that over 5.6 million children had experienced maltreatment during this time period.
“Confirmed child maltreatment is dramatically underestimated in this country. Our findings show that it is far more prevalent than the 1 in 100 that is currently reported,” says first author Christopher Wildeman, associate professor of sociology and faculty fellow at the Institution for Social and Policy Studies at Yale University.
The research provides cumulative, rather than annual, estimates that confirmed child maltreatment is common.
“Maltreatment is on the scale of other major public health concerns that affect child health and well-being,” he says. “Because child maltreatment is also a risk factor for poor mental and physical health outcomes throughout life, the results of this study provide valuable epidemiologic information.”