Perinatal Indicator: Child Maltreatment

Definition: any recent act, or failure to act, on the part of a parent or caretaker, which results in the death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse, or exploitation of a child under the age of 18.

There are three types of abuse:

  • Physical abuse is when a child is injured as a result of kicking, shaking, hitting, burning, or any other use of force.
  • Emotional abuse is treatment that damages a child’s sense of self-worth or emotional well-being, including name-calling, shaming, rejection, withholding love, and threats of physical harm.
  • Sexual abuse is defined as engaging a child in sexual acts, including fondling, rape, and exposing a child to sexual activities.

Neglect is defined as failing to meet a child’s essential needs, including food, shelter, clothing, education, and medical care.

Why Does this Matter? The abuse of babies and children can cause serious emotional and physical harm, including death. When children are abused before age 3, it can disrupt brain development and cause permanent physical, social and emotional harm. The Adverse Childhood Experience (ACE) Study (www.acestudy.org) demonstrated that when a child is a victim of, or exposed to violence—including child abuse, neglect, and domestic violence—it often leads to risk-taking behaviors later in childhood and adolescence. These include early initiation of smoking, alcohol consumption, drug use, sexual promiscuity, unintended pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, and suicide attempts. When the child reaches adulthood, he or she is likely to be prone to health problems, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), alcoholism, drug abuse, depression, ischemic heart disease, liver disease, and intimate partner violence.

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Children are never to blame for the harm done to them by adults, but the following are factors that increase the chances that a child will become a victim: the child is less than 4 years old; the child lives in a home where there are stresses such as domestic violence, drug or alcohol abuse, poverty, chronic health problems -- including mental health problems -- and lack of social support; the child lives in a community where violence is pervasive.

  • In the United Sates, in 2008, infants under 1 year of age represented approximately 12% of all child victims of maltreatment.
  • Children 3 and younger  represented approximately 31.9% of all child victims.
  • The number one cause of maltreatment for those under one year of age was neglect (78.5%) followed by physical abuse (17.1%), other abuse (15.9%)
  • In LA County, in 2009, the rate of reported abuse and neglect was 11.5 per 1,000, up from 10.5 per 1,000 in 2008.

Please note: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration of Children, Youth, and Families defines child maltreatment as an act or failure to act by a parent, caregiver, or other person as defined under Sate law that results in physical abuse, neglect, medical neglect, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, or an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm to a child.

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Child Neglect and abuse in LA County, by age of victim, 2009 .

 

Age and Maltreatment Types of Victims, United States, 2008
Child Maltreatment 2008

AgeGroup

Medical Neglect

Neglect

Other Abuse

Physical Abuse

Psychological Abuse

Sexual Abuse

Unknown Maltreatment

% of Total Child Victims

Number of Child Victims

<1 year old

3.4%

78.5%

15.9%

17.1%

6.7%

0.5%

0.2%

12.2%

91,652

1-2 years old

2.9%

81.8%

9.8%

11%

7.1%

1%

0.3%

7.2%

54,008

 2-3 years old

2.1%

81.5%

9.1%

11.4%

6.4%

1.9%

0.3%

6.8%

50,816

3-4 years old

1.9%

78.3%

8.9%

12.0%

6.8%

5.1%

0.3%

6.3%

47,263

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration on Children, Youth and Families. Child Maltreatment 2008 (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 2010).

 

 

 

For further information, please read the LA Best Babies Network Perinatal Scorecard

 Resources: Strengthening Families and Communities 2011 Resources Guide from Childwelfare.gov

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