While legal definitions of child maltreatment vary by state, four types of maltreatment are generally recognized: physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect (including educational, medical, and other forms of neglect), and emotional maltreatment. In the national statistical system that tracks child maltreatment, children are counted as victims if an investigation by a state child welfare agency classifies their case as either “substantiated” or “indicated” child maltreatment. Substantiated cases are those in which an allegation of maltreatment or risk of maltreatment was supported or founded according to state law or policy. Indicated cases are those in which an allegation of maltreatment or risk of maltreatment could not be substantiated, but there was reason to suspect maltreatment or the risk of maltreatment.3
Child maltreatment can be defined as “behavior towards [a child] . . . which (a) is outside the norms of conduct, and (b) entails a substantial risk of causing physical or emotional harm. Behaviors included will consist of actions and omissions, ones that are intentional and ones that are unintentional.”4 Four types of maltreatment are generally recognized, including physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect (including educational neglect, medical neglect, and other forms), and emotional maltreatment. Before 2009, all data in this report represent all substantiated or indicated cases from reporting states in a given year. For 2009 and subsequent years, duplicate victims (that is, those reported to have experienced more than one incidence of maltreatment) are excluded, and data represent the number of children who had at least one substantiated or indicated case in that year. Not all states report duplicate victims, so the total number of unique victims is an estimate based on available numbers. Legal definitions of maltreatment vary by state.
Child Trends. (2018). Child maltreatment. Retrieved from https://www.childtrends.org/indicators/child-maltreatment.
1. Estimates for white, black, American Indian/Alaskan Native, and Asian/Pacific Islander youth in this report do not include Hispanic youth. Hispanic children and youth may be of any race.
1. Finkelhor, D., Saito, K., & Jones, L. M. (2016). Updated trends in child treatment. Durham, NH: University of New Hampshire, Crimes Against Children Research Center. Retrieved from http://www.unh.edu/ccrc/pdf/Updated%20trends%202014.pdf.
3. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Children’s Bureau. (2012). Child maltreatment 2011. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from http://www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/cb/resource/child-maltreatment-2011.
4. Christoffel, K. K., Scheidt, P. C., Agran, P. F., Kraus, J. F., McLoughlin, E., & Paulson, J. A. (1992). Standard definitions for childhood injury research: Excerpts of a conference report. Pediatrics, 89(6), 1027–1034.