Child Maltreatment

Child Maltreatment

Child maltreatment affects children and adolescents of all ages. The degree of maltreatment may range from failure to adequately nurture a child’s or teen’s development to physical neglect or overt abuse.

Maltreatment or abuse poses as great a risk to a child's physical and mental development as a nutritional deficiency or toxin exposure. The earlier in a child's life abuse starts, and the longer it continues, the greater its impact.1

Child maltreatment has many long-term consequences. These include the risk of physical injury and even death, and increased risk for depression, suicide, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), substance abuse, oppositional and aggressive behaviors, eating disorders, medical problems and somatic complaints, lower IQ scores, early pregnancy, and continuation of intergenerational violence and/or neglect.

Key Facts:

  • Approximately 794,000 children were victims of maltreatment in 2007.2
  • Fifty-nine percent of reported child maltreatment cases involved neglect, 10.8 percent involved physical abuse, 7.6 percent involved sexual abuse, and 4.2 percent involved psychological maltreatment. Approximately 13 percent involved multiple maltreatments and 4.2 percent were classified as "other" types of maltreatment, such as abandonment, threats of harm to the child, or congenital drug addiction.2
  • An estimated 1,760 children nationally died in 2007 as a result of maltreatment. Of these, 75.7 percent were younger than 4 years old.2
  • Of the victims of maltreatment, 12 percent were under 1 year old, 19.9 percent were 1-3 years old, 23.8 were 4-7 years old, 19 percent were 8-11 years old, 18.5 percent were 12-15 years old, and 6.1 were 16-17 years old. Rates of psychological and physical abuse and neglect were highest in 4 to 7 year olds; medical neglect was highest in children under 1; sexual abuse was highest in adolescents 12 to 15 year olds.2
  • In over 50 percent of families that have experienced child abuse or neglect there is a parent who abuses drugs or alcohol.3


  1. Hagan, J. F., Shaw, J. S., & Duncan, P. (Eds.). (2008). Bright Futures: Guidelines for Health Supervision of Infants, Children, and Adolescents Third Edition. Elk Grove Village, IL: The American Academy of Pediatrics.
  2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2009). Child Maltreatment 2007. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office.
  3. Peterson, L., Gable, S., & Saldana, L. (1996). Treatment of maternal addiction to prevent child abuse and neglect. Addictive Behaviors, 21 (6), 789-801.