Key Facts About Child Maltreatment In The United States

What is the definition of child abuse and neglect?

Child abuse and neglect are defined in both Federal and State laws. The types of maltreatment defined include physical abuse, neglect, emotional abuse, and sexual abuse. Details about how your state’s laws define the conduct, acts, and omissions that constitute child abuse or neglect that must be reported to child protective agencies can be found in the Child Welfare Information Gateway’s Definitions of Child Abuse and Neglect.


How many U.S. children are abused or neglected each year?

For 2013, there were a nationally estimated 679,000 victims of abuse and neglect, resulting in a rate of 9.1 victims per 1,000 children in the population. This rate only reflects children for whom a state determined that at least one maltreatment event was substantiated or indicated.[1]

[1] Unless otherwise indicated, the data cited is from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Children’s Bureau (CB). (2015). Child maltreatment 2015. Available from https://www.acf.hhs.gov/cb/resource/child-maltreatment-2015


How many children die each year due to abuse or neglect?

An estimated 1,520 children died as a result of abuse or neglect in 2013. This national estimate was based on data from State child welfare information systems, as well as other data sources available to the States.


Approximately how many allegations of maltreatment are reported and receive an investigation or assessment for abuse and neglect each year?

During 2013, Child Protective Service (CPS) agencies received an estimated 3.5 million referrals involving approximately 6.4 million children.


Is the number of maltreated children increasing or decreasing?

The number of victims decreased 3.8% from 2009 to 2013.


Who were the child victims?

Approximately one-fifth of the children reported to CPS were found to be victims.


What percentage of children reported to CPS were “screened in” for follow-up action?

The youngest children are the most vulnerable—about 27% of reported victims were under the age of three. Victims in their first year of life had the highest rate of victimization at 23.1 per 1,000 children of the same age in the national population.


What are the most common types of maltreatment?

Neglect, at 80%, is by far, the most common form of maltreatment. Physical abuse, at 18%, is the second most common form of maltreatment.


What are the long-term consequences of child abuse and neglect?

While many children are resilient and can recover from maltreatment, there are significant, widespread long-term consequences for their behavior and physical and psychological development.[2]

[2] For more information about the long-term physical, psychological, behavioral, and societal consequences of child abuse and neglect, see Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2013). Long-term consequences of child abuse and neglect. Washington, DC: HHS, CB. Available from https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/factsheets/long-term-consequences/