Child Abuse Statistics

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National Child Abuse Statistics
Compiled May 2005 by Childhelp USA®

NOTE: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families ( releases its most current child abuse statistics, as reported by the states, in April of each year. The following includes statistics released April 2005, which analyzed data for calendar year 2003.


Each day in the United States, more than 4 children die as a result of child abuse in the home.

In 2003, an estimated 1,500 children died of abuse and neglect-an average of more than 4 children per day. (Victims known to child protective services agencies, which track abuse and neglect in the home.)

More than three-quarters (78.7 percent) of the children who die are younger than four years of age.

Of these fatalities, 89 percent were under the age of eight; 43.6 percent of the children were under the age of one.


The rate of infant homicide reached a 30-year high in 2000.

The rate more than doubled from 4.3 homicides per 100,000 children under age one in 1970 to 9.1 per 100,000 children under age one in 2000. This trend occurred during a period in which there was an overall decrease in infant mortality from all sources.

Research studies of infant death data drawn from multiple agency records (e.g., police or social service records) indicate that the actual rate of infant deaths attributable to substantial abuse or neglect of infants and children up to four years of age is more than twice as high as the official rates reported in death certificate data.

Homicide is the leading cause of injury deaths among infants (under one year of age) in the United States.

Overall, it is the 15th leading cause of infant mortality from all causes. Homicide risk is greater in the first year of life than in any other year of childhood before age 17. Perpetrators are typically the mother, father or stepfather.

Infants are most likely to be killed by their mother during the first week of life but are more likely to be killed by a male (usually their father or stepfather) thereafter.


More than 2.9 million reports of possible maltreatment involving children were made to child protective service agencies in calendar year 2003.

The actual incidence of abuse and neglect is estimated to be three times greater than the number reported to authorities.

Child abuse is reported-on average-every 10 seconds.

Based on approximately 2.9 million reports per year.

An estimated 906,000 children were victims of abuse and neglect in 2003 (cases substantiated by child protective service agencies).

Nine in 10 Americans polled regard child abuse as a serious problem, yet only 1 in 3 reported abuse when confronted with an actual situation.


In 2003, 48.3 percent of child victims were male; 51.7 percent of victims were female. 83.9 percent of victims were abused by a parent. 40.8% of child victims were maltreated by their mothers acting alone; another 18.8 percent were maltreated by their fathers acting alone; 16.9 percent were abused by both parents.

Types of maltreatment included:
Neglect (including medical neglect) 61%
Physical Abuse----------------------------19%
Sexual Abuse------------------------------10%
Psychological Maltreatment-------------5%
Medical Maltreatment----------------------2%

*Includes abandonment and congenital drug addiction figures reported by some states.

NOTE: Percentages total more than 100% because children may have been victims of more than one type of abuse.


Men and women serving time in the nation's prisons and jails report a higher incidence of abuse as children than the general population.

More than a third of women in the nation's prisons and jails reported abuse as children, compared with 12% to 17% for women in the general population. About 14% of male inmates reported abuse as children, compared with 5% to 8% of men in the general population.

Research has found that repeated sexual abuse affects the function of a key brain region related to substance abuse.

Damage to the cerebellar vermis may cause an individual to be particularly irritable and to seek external means (e.g., drugs or alcohol) to quell the irritability. While researchers have long known that a history of child abuse increases the risk for substance abuse in adults, a clear developmental mechanism by which this phenomenon occurs has been unclear until now.


Convicted rape and sexual assault offenders serving time in state prisons report that two-thirds of their victims were under the age of 18.

One of every seven victims of sexual assault reported to law enforcement agencies were under age six. Among rape victims less than 12 years of age, 90% of the children knew the offender, according to police-recorded incident data.

Frequently, the person who sexually molests a child is also a child.
40% of the offenders who sexually assaulted children under age 6 were juveniles (under the age of 18).


Nearly one-half of substantiated cases of child neglect and abuse are associated with parental alcohol or drug abuse.

It is estimated that one in every four children in the United States (28 million) are living in a household with an alcoholic adult.

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