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More Research Needed on Child Abuse and Neglect

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"Researchers like myself are doing what they can given small budgets available," says Wolfe. Wolfe currently gives foundations more credit than government sources in supporting research for the prevention of child abuse. "It's a frustrating situation. Child abuse is everyone's distant cousin and no one's baby."

The researchers also highlight that there are many definitions of abuse and neglect, and this can lead to failure in identifying the exact type of abuse the child experienced. Sherryl S. Heller, PhD, a researcher in child abuse at Tulane University Medical Center in New Orleans, agrees with Kaplan. "After reviewing the literature, we found it's a pretty big problem. Until we can define things the same way, the conclusions we draw are going to be somewhat questionable because we don't have consistent classifications," Heller tells WebMD.

Heller finds that, due to legal reasons, physically abused children are in some cases classified as neglected. She has also observed that children may be classified in different categories depending on who reports the abuse, be it parent, teacher, or physician. And if there's more than one report, that's important, says Heller.

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