Child Maltreatment

Each year, hundreds of thousands of children in the United States are victims of one or more types of maltreatment, which include physical abuse, sexual abusepsychological maltreatment, and neglect. The Children’s Bureau has collected and analyzed data concerning child maltreatment for more than two decades, and revealed the following statistics in its 2010 annual report.

  • Child protective services (CPS) agencies received an estimated 3.3 million referrals (or reports) involving the alleged maltreatment of approximately 5.9 million children. 
  • Professionals made three-fifths of the reports, with the greatest number coming from teachers, law enforcement, legal personnel, and social services staff.
  • Of the 1.8 million reports that received an investigation, 24.2 percent (or 436,321 children) were substantiated, meaning CPS agencies found that those children experienced, or were likely to have experienced, abuse or neglect.
  • Victimization was split almost evenly between genders, and the highest rate of victimization was for children from birth to 1 year old.
  • African American children made up 21.9 percent of victims; Hispanic, 21.4 percent; and White, 44.8 percent.
  • 408,425 children were in foster care at the end of the fiscal year; the average age was 9.2 years, and the average stay in foster care was 14 months.
  • More than 80 percent of perpetrators (or abusers) were biological parents or stepparents, and another 6.1 percent were other relatives of the victim.

There are a variety of risk and protective factors in a child's life that can either contribute to or help decrease their risk of experiencing maltreatment. In addition to discussing those factors, this section looks at how individuals who suspect child abuse or neglect is taking place should handle reporting suspected maltreatment. Finally, it discusses the various consequences of child maltreatment that can happen to those children who experience it.