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Who Is Affected by Child Abuse and Neglect

In 2008, 2 million cases of child abuse or neglect were investigated by Child Protective Services in the United States. About 24 out of 100 of these cases were confirmed.1

Of the confirmed cases:1

  • More than 70% of children were neglected.
  • More than 15% were physically abused.
  • Less than 10% were sexually abused.
  • Less than 10% were psychologically abused.
  • An estimated 1,750 children died of abuse or neglect.

The true number of children who are abused or neglected is not known. Many cases, especially those involving young children, are not recognized or reported. As a result, many abused or neglected children suffer in silence.

Children of all ages can be victims of any of these types of abuse. But younger children are more likely to be physically abused and to suffer more serious injuries than older children.1

In 2008, child abuse and neglect was perpetrated (carried out) by one or both parents in about 80 out of 100 cases. Other relatives were responsible for about 7 out of 100 cases.1

Girls are slightly more likely to be abused or neglected than boys. The difference for boys and girls is bigger for sexual abuse. About 20 out of 100 adult women and 5 to 10 out of 100 adult men are estimated to report having been sexually abused before age 18.2


  1. Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2008). Child Maltreatment 2008. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. Available online:

  2. Leventhal JM (2003). Child maltreatment: Neglect to abuse. In CD Rudolph et al., eds., Rudolph's Pediatrics, 21st ed., pp. 463-469. New York: McGraw-Hill.

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer John Pope, MD - Pediatrics
Specialist Medical Reviewer Thomas Emmett Francoeur, MDCM, CSPQ, FRCPC - Pediatrics
Last Revised December 10, 2010

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: December 10, 2010
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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