Battered Babies: Child Abuse is More Than Just a Family Problem
If you’re a teacher, or a daycare provider, you’re likely on the lookout for signs of a child who is being abused. After all, you come into contact with the same kids each and every day . . . and even the most well-hidden bruises, scratches or bumps would probably catch your attention.
But what if you’re not involved with kids on a daily basis? It’s just as likely that child abuse isn’t top of mind for you . . . and you may not even be aware just how big of a problem it is in our society.
In fact, the prevalence of reported child abuse cases in the U.S. is astonishing considering the awareness and information that we’re privy to when living in a “developed” nation such as ours.
A recent study conducted by the Yale School of Medicine paints an alarming picture of just what we are dealing with; in spite of having more resources and purported “awareness” than most other nations.
Some Very Disturbing Statistics
Here are some stats to consider:
- Nearly five children die every day in the U.S. from abuse or neglect.
- In 2010, an estimated 1560 children died from abuse in the United States.
Also in 2009 (the most accurate, up-to-date statistics recorded) the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported:
- Approximately 702,000 children were victims of maltreatment (unique instances).
- 44 states reported that more than 3 million children received preventative services from Child Protective Services agencies.
- Victims in the age group of birth to 1 year had the highest rate of victimization, at 20.6 per 1,000 children of the same age group in the national population.
- Of the children who experienced maltreatment or abuse, over 75% experienced neglect; more than 15% were physically abused; just under 10% were sexually abused; and just under 10% were psychologically maltreated.
- Nearly 90% of all recorded and duplicate perpetrators of child maltreatment were parents of the victim(s).
Equally alarming is the finding that more than half of the children that died from abuse or neglect were under one year of age, showing that children in their first year of life were at the highest risk of being abused.
Dr. John M. Leventhal, a professor of pediatrics and the medical director of the Child Abuse and Child Abuse Prevention Programs at Yale-New Haven Children's Hospital points out that this number is even higher than the rate of those that die from sudden infant death syndrome (or SIDS).
Dr. Leventhal also pointed out that those children who were covered by Medicaid had a six times higher rate of serious abuse than those who were not on Medicaid, which is in keeping with findings in past studies that poverty and the risk of child abuse are related.
The Connection Between Poverty and Child Abuse
This isn’t the first study to find a connection between low income and child abuse. It has been reported in previous studies that children from families that have an annual income of less than $15,000 are 22 times more likely to be abused or neglected than those who come from families with an annual income of $30,000 or more.
The reason for the connection has to do with the stressors associated with poverty. These stresses include instable housing situations and living arrangements, unemployment, limited healthcare access, and being a single parent. With poverty there is also an increased risk of substance abuse. It’s been shown that approximately 40 percent of confirmed child abuse cases are related to a parent’s substance abuse.
Current Economic Woes and Rising Child Abuse Rates
With a known link between poverty and child abuse, one can’t help but worry about the impact that the country’s current financial struggles will have on our children. As budget cuts continue to slash social service programs, more and more children become in danger of being abused in spite of increased public awareness.
So, as you can see, this issue is certainly more than just a family problem . . . but has become a societal (and financial) one as well.