On average, one case of child maltreatment is reported to authorities in the United States every 10 seconds. In 2007 alone, approximately 3.2 million reports of maltreatment were received by child protective services (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2009). Maltreatment ranges from neglect to abuse to death with various degrees of harm experienced by different victims. The following four examples illustrate the range of behaviors that are captured under the heading of child maltreatment:
When children are maltreated, they tend to experience several types of maltreatment simultaneously (Weeks and Widom, 1998; Trickett et al., 2009). That is, a child who is physically abused is also verbally and emotionally abused, and often neglected as well. The experience of multiple forms of child maltreatment is known as polyvictimization. A study of 2,030 children found that 22 percent of them experienced four or more types of maltreatment in the prior year (Finkelhor, Ormrod, and Turner, 2005). Some would argue that child abuse is an epidemic in the United States, and throughout the world, for that matter. Each year the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services releases a report describing trends in child maltreatment. In the most recent report, the following trends or patterns were identifi ed:
While these estimates are somewhat stable, it is within the past two decades that increases in child maltreatment reporting occurred. In fact, dramatic increases occurred in the number of reported cases of child maltreatment between 1986 and 1993. With the exception of educational neglect, each type of maltreatment at least doubled in this seven-year time frame. Note, however, that the occurrence of maltreatment does not explain this increase. Rather, it is believed that widespread public awareness campaigns led to an increase of reporting allegations of abuse (Wilson, 2000). In fact, by 1997, the number of abuse reports cited by the National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse increased to 3,195,000 (Cohn, 1998).