Prevent Child Maltreatment
Child Maltreatment (CM) is a significant public health problem in the United States. According to Child Protective Service agencies, more than 676,000 children were found to be victims of maltreatment in 2011. Another 1,545 children died from violence that same year. The financial costs for victims and society are substantial. A recent CDC study showed that the total lifetime estimated financial cost associated with just one year of confirmed cases of child maltreatment is approximately $124 billion.
Abused children often suffer physical injuries including cuts, bruises, burns, and broken bones. Physical injury is far from the only negative impact of maltreatment—it can also affect broader health outcomes, mental health, social development, and risk-taking behavior into adolescence and adulthood.
CM includes all types of abuse and neglect of a child under the age of 18 by a parent or caregiver that results in harm or potential harm. There are four common types of abuse:
- Physical abuse is the use of physical force, such as hitting, kicking, shaking, burning, or other shows of force against a child.
- Sexual abuse involves engaging a child in sexual acts. It includes behaviors such as fondling, penetration, and exposing a child to other sexual activities.
- Emotional abuse refers to behaviors that harm a child's self-worth or emotional well-being. Examples include name calling, shaming, rejection, withholding love, and threatening.
- Neglect is the failure to meet a child's basic physical and emotional needs. These needs include housing, food, clothing, education, and access to medical care.
Maltreatment causes stress that can disrupt early brain development, and serious chronic stress can harm the development of the nervous and immune systems. As a result, children who are abused or neglected are at higher risk for health problems as adults. These problems include alcoholism, depression, drug abuse, eating disorders, obesity, high-risk sexual behaviors, smoking, suicide, and certain chronic diseases.
Preventing Child Maltreatment
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) works to stop maltreatment, including abuse and neglect, before it initially occurs. In doing this, CDC promotes the development of safe, stable, and nurturing relationships between children and their parents or caregivers. Children's experiences are defined through their relationships with parents, teachers, and other caregivers. Healthy relationships act as a buffer against adverse childhood experiences. They are necessary to ensure the long-term physical and emotional well-being of children.
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