1 in 8 American Children Estimated to Experience Maltreatment by Age 18



 Bottom Line: One in 8 American children (12.5 percent) is estimated to experience a confirmed case of maltreatment before age 18, and the cumulative prevalence is highest for black children (1 in 5) and Native American children (1 in 7).

Author: Christopher Wildeman, Ph.D., of Yale University, New Haven, Conn., and colleagues.

Background: Childhood maltreatment (the neglect and physical, sexual and emotional abuse of children) is associated with negative physical, mental and social outcomes. A disparity exists between estimates of the prevalence based on retrospective self-reports and those derived from documented maltreatment.

How the Study Was Conducted: The authors 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 U.S. children with a confirmed report of maltreatment. It totaled more than 5.6 million children from 2004 to 2011.

Results: At 2011 rates, 12.5 percent of all U.S. children will experience a confirmed case of maltreatment by age 18. The cumulative prevalence is higher for girls (13 percent) than boys (12 percent), and for black (20.9 percent), Native American (14.5 percent) and Hispanic (13 percent) children than white (10.7 percent) children or Asian/Pacific Islander (3.8 percent) children. The risk for maltreatment is highest in the first few years of life, with 2.1 percent of children having a confirmed case by age 1 year and 5.8 percent by age 5 years.

Conclusion: “The results from this analysis – which provides cumulative rather than annual estimates – indicate that confirmed child maltreatment is common, on the scale of other major public health concerns that affect child health and well-being. … Because child maltreatment is also a risk factor for poor mental and physical health outcomes throughout the life course, the results of this study provide valuable epidemiologic information.”

(JAMA Pediatr. Published online June 2, 2014. doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2014.410.