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Special Feature: Child Abuse

sad child

The negative outcomes of child maltreatment are wide-ranging. It can be associated with lower school achievement, juvenile delinquency, substance abuse, and mental health problems. Certain types of maltreatment can result in long-term physical, social, and emotional problems, or even death.

Child maltreatment is a broad term that covers all types of abuse and neglect of a child under the age of 18 by a parent, caregiver, or another person in a custodial role, such as a coach or teacher.

In 2016, an estimated 3.5 million children received either an investigation or alternative response by child protective services. As in prior years, the majority of children suffered from neglect (74.8%) and physical abuse (18.2%).

Child abuse and neglect is associated with several risk factors. The likelihood for abuse and neglect is influenced by a number of individual, family, or environmental factors, all of which interact to increase or decrease risk over time and within specific contexts. Although risk factors provide information about who is most at risk for being a victim or a perpetrator of child abuse and neglect, they are not direct causes and cannot predict who will be a victim or a perpetrator.

Young victims of crime are generally underserved, and the systems responsible for caring for them can often be fragmented and ineffective for youth and their families. The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention and the Office for Victims of Crime are committed to improving the response to child abuse and services for all victims of crime, including victims of child abuse and neglect.

For service providers and advocates, child maltreatment cases present judges presiding over child abuse and neglect cases have considerable managerial and directive functions, but they also must be concerned with principles of treatment, rehabilitation, family preservation, and permanency planning while ensuring a child's safety.

Despite the violence and abuse that some youth may have already experienced in their short lives, children are resilient. Every person in a child's life can play a role in helping to protect them and help them heal.

A national issue that affects us all, the consequences of child abuse and neglect ripple across the lifespan, negatively impacting a child's chances to succeed in school, work, and relationships. NIJ has funded a range of research that expands our understanding of children's exposure to violence, both as direct victims and bystanders, and informs the development and enhancement of strategies to reduce the impact of violence on children and youth.

Select a page from the "Child Abuse" box for additional information and resources produced or sponsored by the Office of Justice Programs and other federal sources.

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