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Child Abuse Prevention

Group of children sitting on floorApril is National Child Abuse Prevention Month.

The Division of Violence Prevention at CDC works to better understand the problem of child maltreatment and to prevent it before it begins. Essentials for Childhood is CDC's framework for preventing child maltreatment, and its efforts are focused on assuring safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments for all children.

Facts about Child Abuse and Neglect

Child maltreatment is a significant public health problem in the United States.

  • According to child protective service agencies, about 679,000 children were substantiated victims of maltreatment in 2013.
  • Self-reported data consistently show that more than 1 in 10 children and youth experienced at least one form of child maltreatment in the past year.
  • More than 1,400 children died in the United States in 2013 from abuse and neglect.
  • The financial costs for victims and society are substantial. A CDC study showed that the total lifetime estimated financial cost associated with just 1 year of confirmed cases of child maltreatment is $124 billion.
Teenage boy

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month. Learn more about preventing child abuse and neglect in your community.

Abused children often suffer physical injuries including cuts, bruises, burns, and broken bones. Physical injury is not 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.

Child maltreatment 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.

Child 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.

Parents holding baby

Child abuse and neglect are sometimes referred to as child maltreatment by those working in the field.

Child Abuse and Neglect Are Preventable

CDC works to stop child maltreatment, including abuse and neglect, before it occurs. In doing this, CDC promotes the development of safe, stable, and nurturing relationships and environments between children and their parents or caregivers. Children's experiences are defined through their environments (such as homes, schools, and neighborhoods) and relationships with parents, teachers, and other caregivers. Healthy relationships act as a buffer against adverse childhood experiences and are necessary to ensure the long-term physical and emotional well-being of children.

Join CDC's Initiative to Prevent Child Abuse and Neglect

Safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments are essential to prevent child maltreatment and to assure children reach their full potential. Essentials for Childhood proposes evidence-based strategies that communities can consider in promoting relationships and environments that help children grow to be healthy and productive citizens.

The Essentials for Childhood initiative is intended for communities that are committed to the positive development of children and families, specifically to prevent child abuse and neglect. While child maltreatment is a significant public health problem, it is also a preventable one. The steps suggested in the Essentials for Childhood framework—along with your commitment to preventing child maltreatment—can help create neighborhoods, communities, and a world in which every child can thrive.

Essentials for Parenting

In 2014, CDC released the Essentials for Parenting Toddlers and Preschoolers online resource. This resource provides a unique opportunity for parents to receive evidence-based parenting information from a trustworthy source: CDC.

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