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A shocking number of kids are maltreated in the US

Harold Mandel's picture
A young girl being choked

Child maltreatment is a serious problem across the United States. Research has shown that an unusually large number of kids are abused in the country. Child abuse may consist of physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect and abandonment, and emotional or psychological abuse. Raising an awareness of the problem of maltreatment of children will hopefully assist us in properly directing more resources towards working to eradicate this problem.

Child maltreatment is a risk for a lifetime of poor health

Child maltreatment has been highlighted as being a serious risk factor for poor health throughout the lifetime of a person reported JAMA. Present estimates of the proportion of kids maltreated during childhood across the USA have been based on retrospective self-reports. Annual instead of cumulative counts of maltreated kids have been produced from these records.

Researchers from Yale pursued making an estimate of the proportion of US children with a report of maltreatment by 18 years of age that was indicated or substantiated by Child Protective Services. The National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS) Child File has information dealing with all US children with a confirmed report of maltreatment.

The results showed that with 2011 rates, 12.5 percent of US children will experience a confirmed case of maltreatment by the time they are 18-years-old. The cumulative prevalence for girls at 13 percent is higher than that for boys at 12 percent. The prevalence varies across racial lines as follows:

1: Black: 20.9 percent

2: Native American: 14.5 percent

3: Hispanic: 13.0 percent

4: White: 10.7 percent

5: Asian/Pacific Islander: 3.8 percent

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Maltreatment of kids occurs most often in the first few years of life. By the time they are just 1 year of age 2.1 percent of American children have confirmed maltreatment. This goes up to 5.8 percent by 5 years of age.

Annual rates of confirmed child maltreatment dramatically understate the real numbers

The researchers concluded that annual rates of confirmed child maltreatment dramatically understate the cumulative number of kids who are confirmed to be maltreated during childhood. The findings indicated that maltreatment will be confirmed for 1 in 8 US children by 18 years of age, which is far greater than the 1 in 100 kids whose maltreatment is confirmed annually.

According to these researchers about 12 percent of American kids experience a confirmed case of maltreatment in the form of neglect, physical, sexual, or emotional abuse by the time they are 18-years-old reports Yale University. An analysis of data between 2004 and 2011 showed that over 5.6 million kids had experienced maltreatment between 2004 and 2011.

Maltreatment of kids rates high on the scale of other major public health concerns

First author Christopher Wildeman, associate professor of sociology at Yale, has said that confirmed child maltreatment is dramatically underestimated in the United States. He says their findings at Yale show that child maltreatment across the country is far more prevalent than the 1 in 100 which is presently reported. Wildeman says maltreatment rates high on the scale of other major public health concerns that affect child health and well-being. This information is important because child maltreatment is also a risk factor for poor mental and physical health outcomes during a lifetime.

In view of the serious potential consequences of child maltreatment coupled with the wide scale nature of this problem there should be more aggressive initiatives to deal with the problem. In consideration of the realization that the negative consequences for a maltreated child can last a lifetime clearly an emphasis on prevention is important. Parents and other caregivers should be at all times well informed about this problem with encouragement to avoid it.

Although parents are often at fault they are not always at fault for child maltreatment

This all opens up considerations that although sadly many cases of child maltreatment are the fault of abusive parents, parents are not always at fault when maltreatment occurs. Consider that when psychiatrists force intervention on kids with caring parents in the name of so called treatment for nebulous diagnostic entities which probably do not even exist, it is actually the psychiatrists and other health care personnel who work with them along with courts who legally enforce this who are actually often guilty of the most serious forms of emotional, psychological and physical abuse imaginable.

Furthermore, the US government should understand that various forms of maltreatment may in fact be due to severe economic hardship which is not the fault the parents. Therefore, all initiatives possible should be made to get parents good, well paying employment and financial and other forms of assistance such as Medicaid if the government insists good jobs are simply too hard to come by at any given time. This is a life and death issue and should not be taken lightly. A young kid can drop dead from malnourishment on the playground in a moment or die in the emergency room very quickly from refusal of treatment due to lack of ability to pay.

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