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Child Maltreatment, Abuse, Neglect

Child maltreatment, abuse, and neglect have severe, permanent, and deadly consequences. 

Types of Abuse

There are four types of child maltreatment: neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse:

Child Neglect is failure to provide for the child’s basic needs (physical, educational, medical, and emotional). Physical abuse is physical injury due to punching, beating, kicking, biting, burning, shaking, or otherwise harming a child. Even if the parent or caretaker did not intend to harm the child, such acts are considered abuse when done purposefully.

Sexual abuse includes fondling a child’s genitals, incest, penetration, rape, sodomy, indecent exposure, and commercial exploitation through prostitution or the production of pornographic materials.

Emotional abuse is any pattern of behavior that harms a child's emotional development or sense of self-worth. It includes frequent belittling, rejection, threats, and withholding of love and support

The confirmed number of cases of child maltreatment in 2002 was 906,000 children; however this is an underestimate of the total number of cases. Among children confirmed by child protective service agencies as being maltreated, 61% experienced neglect; 19% were physically abused; 10% were sexually abused; and 5% were emotionally or psychologically abused. An estimated 1,500 children were confirmed to have died from maltreatment; 36% of these deaths were from neglect, 28% from physical abuse, and 29% from multiple maltreatment types.

Research has shown that the majority of abusers are female, and over 80% of perpetrators are single parents.


The consequences of child abuse survive long after the incidence of abuse in the form of social, mental, and physical problems as adults. Children who experience maltreatment are at increased risk for adverse health effects and behaviors as adults—including smoking, alcoholism, drug abuse, eating disorders, severe obesity, depression, suicide, sexual promiscuity, and certain chronic diseases. Maltreatment during infancy or early childhood can cause important regions of the brain to form improperly, leading to physical, mental, and emotional problems such as sleep disturbances, panic disorder, and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. Children who are abused or maltreated are twice as likely to physically assault as adults.

Direct costs (judicial, law enforcement and health system responses to child maltreatment) are estimated at $24 billion each year. The indirect costs (long-term economic consequences of child maltreatment) exceed an estimated $69 billion annually.


Reference: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Associated pages

Prevention Strategies
Additional Resources
Groups at Risk
Risk and Protective Factors