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America's Children: Key National Indicators of Well-Being, 2017

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.27 Certain types of maltreatment can result in long-term physical, social, and emotional problems, and even death. For example, abusive head trauma can result in mental retardation, cerebral palsy, or paralysis.28 Please note that the calculation of child maltreatment has been changed and is not comparable to data presented in previous editions of America's Children. 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, 2008–2015
Indicator FAM7.A: Rate of substantiated maltreatment of children ages 0–17 by age, 2008–2015

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 previous editions of America's Children, 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.

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


  • After declining modestly between 2008 and 2011 from 9.3 per 1,000 children to 8.8 per 1,000 children, the national rate of child maltreatment increased to 9.1 per 1,000 children in 2014 and 9.2 in 2015.
  • The risk of maltreatment is higher for younger children, particularly infants. In 2015, children under age 1 had a maltreatment rate of 24.2 per 1,000, more than twice the rate for any other age group. Recent increases in the maltreatment rate have been largest for children under age 1, moving from 22.3 per 1,000 to 24.2 per 1,000 between 2013 and 2015.
  • Maltreatment rates for children ages 0–17 varied substantially among race and Hispanic origin groups, from 1.7 per 1,000 children up to 14.5 per 1,000 children in 2015. Rates per 1,000 children were, in ascending order: 1.7 for Asian, non-Hispanic; 8.1 for White, non-Hispanic; 8.4 for Hispanic; 8.8 for Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander, non-Hispanic; 10.4 for children of Two or more races, non-Hispanic; 13.8 for American Indian or Alaska Native, non-Hispanic; and 14.5 for Black, non-Hispanic children.

Indicator FAM7.B: Percentage of substantiated maltreatment of children ages 0–17 by maltreatment type, 2015
Indicator FAM7.B: Percentage of substantiated maltreatment of children ages 0–17 by maltreatment type, 2015

NOTE: Percentages for neglect do not include medical neglect. Medical neglect is reported separately. Bars total to more than 100 percent because a single child may be victim of multiple kinds of maltreatment. Substantiated maltreatment includes the dispositions of substantiated or indicated. This is a change from prior years 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.

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-quarters of all maltreated children found to have been neglected. In addition, 17 percent of maltreated children were found to have been physically abused; 8 percent were sexually abused; and 6 percent were psychologically abused. Differences by age are particularly notable for sexual abuse, increasing from a little over 1 percent for those ages 0–3, to 19 percent for children ages 12–17.

table icon FAM7A HTML Table | FAM7B HTML Table

27 Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2013). Long-term consequences of child abuse and neglect. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children's Bureau. Retrieved January 30, 2017, from the Child Welfare Information Gateway.

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