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America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2021

Child Maltreatment

Child maltreatment includes physical, sexual, and psychological abuse, as well as neglect (including medical neglect). Maltreatment in general is associated with a number of negative outcomes for children, including developmental delay, lower school achievement, juvenile delinquency, substance abuse, and mental health problems. Many of these problems can follow maltreated children into adulthood.25 Certain types of maltreatment can result in long-term physical, social, and emotional problems—even death. For example, abusive head trauma can result in visual, neurological, cognitive, behavioral, and sleep impairments, as well as special education needs.25, 26 Please note that the calculation of child maltreatment was changed recently and is not comparable with data presented in editions prior to America's Children, 2017. Specifically, rates are now based on unduplicated counts, and alternative response victims are no longer included.

Indicator FAM7.A: Rate of substantiated maltreatment of children ages 0–17 by age, 2008–2019
Indicator FAM7.A: Rate of substantiated maltreatment of children ages 0–17 by age, 2008–2019

NOTE: The data in this figure are rates of victimization based on investigations and assessments by Child Protective Services that found the child to be a victim of one or more types of maltreatment. The rates are based on unique counts of victims of maltreatment. A unique count includes each child only one time, regardless of the number of times the child was determined to be a victim. Substantiated maltreatment includes the dispositions of substantiated or indicated. This is not comparable to child maltreatment estimates in editions prior to America's Children, 2017, which were based on duplicated rather than unduplicated counts and also included alternative response victims. Alternative response victim is the provision of a response other than an investigation that determines a child was a victim of maltreatment. The number of states reporting may vary from year to year. States vary in their definition of abuse and neglect. Additional technical notes are available in the annual reports titled Child Maltreatment, which are available at https://www.acf.hhs.gov/cb/research-data-technology/statistics-research/child-maltreatment.

SOURCE: Administration for Children and Families, National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System.

  • The national rate of child maltreatment has ranged between 8.8 and 9.3 per 1,000 children since 2008 and was 8.9 in 2019.
  • The risk of maltreatment is higher for younger children, particularly infants. In 2019, children under age 1 had a maltreatment rate of 25.7 per 1,000, which is more than twice the rate for any other age group.
  • The maltreatment rate among children under age 1 increased from 20.1 per 1,000 to 26.7 per 1,000 between 2008 and 2018 before dropping to 25.7 in 2019.
  • Maltreatment rates for children ages 0–17 varied substantially among race and Hispanic origin groups, from 1.7 per 1,000 children up to 14.8 per 1,000 children in 2019. Rates per 1,000 children were, in ascending order, as follows: 1.7 for Asian, non-Hispanic; 7.8 for White, non-Hispanic; 8.1 for Hispanic; 10.7 for Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, non-Hispanic; 11.0 for children of Two or more races, non-Hispanic; 13.8 for Black, non- Hispanic; and 14.8 for American Indian or Alaska Native, non-Hispanic.

Indicator FAM7.B: Percentage of substantiated maltreatment of children ages 0–17 by maltreatment type, 2019
Indicator FAM7.B: Percentage of substantiated maltreatment of children ages 0–17 by maltreatment type, 2019

NOTE: Percentages for neglect do not include medical neglect. Medical neglect is reported separately. Bars total to more than 100% because a single child may be the victim of multiple kinds of maltreatment. Substantiated maltreatment includes the dispositions of substantiated or indicated. This is a change from estimates in editions prior to America's Children, 2017 when substantiated maltreatment included dispositions of substantiated, indicated, and alternative response victim. Alternative response victim is the provision of a response other than an investigation that determines a child was a victim of maltreatment. Additional technical notes are available in the annual reports titled Child Maltreatment, which are available at https://www.acf.hhs.gov/cb/research-data-technology/statistics-research/child-maltreatment.

SOURCE: Administration for Children and Families, National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System.

  • Neglect is by far the most common form of maltreatment, with three fourths of all maltreated children found to have been neglected.
  • Eighteen percent of maltreated children were found to have been physically abused, 9% were sexually abused, and 6% were psychologically abused.
  • Differences by age are particularly notable for sexual abuse, increasing from slightly more than 1% for those ages 0–3 to 21% for children ages 12–15 and 22% for ages 16–17.

table icon FAM7A HTML Table | FAM7B HTML Table

25 Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2019). Long-term consequences of child abuse and neglect. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Children's Bureau. https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubPDFs/long_term_consequences.pdf

26 Christian, C. W., Block, R., & the Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect. (2009). Abusive head trauma in infants and children. Pediatrics, 123, 1409–1411.