Friday, December 14th, 2012
The number of children who are abused or neglected in America has dropped for the fifth year in a row, an annual report from the Department of Health and Human Services has announced. More from The Huffington Post:
The latest annual report from the Department of Health and Human Services, released Wednesday, estimates that there were 681,000 cases of child abuse or neglect across the nation in the 2011 fiscal year. That’s down from 695,000 in 2010 and from 723,000 in 2007.
“We have made excellent progress over the past five years,” said George Sheldon, HHS acting assistant secretary for children and families. “But what this report tells me is that we still have 681,000 children out there who need our help.”
The number of abuse-related fatalities was estimated at 1,570 – down from 1,580 in 2010 and from 1,720 in 2007. About fourfifths of those killed were younger than 4, and parents were deemed responsible for nearly four-fifths of the deaths.
Texas had the most fatalities, with 246, followed by Florida with 133, while Montana reported no abuse-related deaths. The highest rates of child fatalities were in Louisiana, Oklahoma and West Virginia.
Regarding the overall maltreatment figures, white children accounted for almost 44 percent of the victims, black children for 21.5 percent and Hispanic children for 22.1 percent. About 11 percent of the victims were physically or mentally disabled.
Regarding types of maltreatment, 78.5 percent of the victims suffered neglect, nearly 18 percent were physically abused and 9.1 percent were sexually abused. The report tallied 61,472 children who were sexually abused in 2011 – down dramatically from the peak of about 150,000 in 1992.
The report, formally known as the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System, is based on input from child protection agencies in every state. About four-fifths of the reports received by the agencies do not lead to findings of maltreatment, according to the report.
Image: Sad girl, via Shutterstock
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Tuesday, July 31st, 2012
Emotional or psychological abuse can be as damaging as physical or even sexual abuse, an article published in the journal Pediatrics argues. Time.com has more:
Psychological maltreatment can include terrorizing, belittling or neglecting a child, the pediatrician authors say.
“We are talking about extremes and the likelihood of harm, or risk of harm, resulting from the kinds of behavior that make a child feel worthless, unloved or unwanted,” Harriet MacMillan, one of the three pediatrician authors, told reporters.
What makes this kind maltreatment so challenging for pediatricians and for social services staff, however, is that it’s not defined by any one specific event, but rather by the nature of the relationship between caregiver and child. That makes it unusually hard to identify.
Keeping a child in a constant state of fear is abuse, for example. But even the most loving parent will occasionally lose their cool and yell. Likewise, depriving a child of ordinary social interaction is also abuse, but there’s nothing wrong with sending a school-aged boy to stew alone in his room for an hour after he hits a younger sibling.
All of this means that, for an outsider who observes even some dubious parenting practice, it can be hard to tell whether a relationship is actually abusive, or whether you’ve simply caught a family on a bad day.
Psychological abuse can also include what you might call “corrupting a child” — encouraging children to use illicit drugs, for example, or to engage in other illegal activities.
In their Pediatrics paper, MacMillan and co-authors say that 8% to 9% of women and 4% of men reported severe psychological abuse in childhood when the question was posed in general-population surveys of the U.S. and Britain.
Image: Sad girl, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, April 4th, 2012
Children who are abused, neglected, or witnesses to violence or trauma are almost 60 percent more likely to be arrested as juveniles, a new report by the victim assistance group Safe Horizon and the Childhood Violent Trauma Center at Yale University has found. But going through even a short period of therapy can help both children and their parents or caregivers tremendously, the report also found–65 percent less likely to develop symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. The New York Times reports:
[Yale psychiatry professor Steven R.] Marans reported that children who participated experienced a 54 percent reduction in trauma symptoms, and their caregivers benefited almost as much.
“When children are alone with and don’t have words to describe their traumatic reactions, symptoms and symptomatic behaviors are their only means of expression,” he said. “And caregivers are often unable to understand the connection between the traumatic event and their children’s symptoms and behaviors. To heal, children need recognition and understanding from their caregivers.”
He added: “This intervention inspires hope and confidence. It can make an immediate and palpable difference in the daily lives of children who have suffered even the worst forms of abuse.”
Well over 90 percent of caregivers who participated in the intervention said they had learned new skills and would recommend the program, which could be a boon to child treatment centers throughout the country.
Image: Mother and daughter in therapy, via Shutterstock.
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Tuesday, February 21st, 2012
A study published this week in the journal Pediatrics has found high rates of sexual and physical abuse among children who have behaviors that deviate from gender norms, leading to increased risk of PTSD as adults.
CNN.com reports that the study did not track transgendered kids, who believe they were born in the wrong physical bodies, but rather kids who exhibit gender nonconforming behaviors like boys wearing nail polish or girls wearing boys’ clothing:
Gender nonconforming behavior occurs in one out of 10 children, according to the study. A vast majority of these kids do not need medical interventions, because the behavior tends to fade as they grow older.
In the study published Monday, nearly 9,000 respondents were asked to recall their childhood experiences before age 11, including favorite toys, games, roles they took while playing, media characters they imitated or admired, and feelings of femininity and masculinity. When they reached adulthood, the participants were surveyed again — this time about whether they experienced physical, sexual, or emotional abuse and were screened for PTSD.
The results showed “very clear patterns,” said S. Bryn Austin, one of the study’s authors. “The young people who as children were most nonconforming were much more likely to report mistreatment or abuse, within the family, by people outside the family. They were targeted for abuse.”
There should be extra precautions taken to protect them, she said.
“We are concerned about the health and risk of abuse and harassment targeting children who behave in a way, or express their gender in a way that’s not typical,” said Austin, an associate professor of pediatrics at the Children’s Hospital Boston and Harvard School of Public Health. “We know there’s a lot of bias about how girls and boys are supposed to behave.”
Image: Little girl playing with a truck, via Shutterstock.
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Thursday, January 5th, 2012
The American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement this week urging pediatricians to ask questions–and listen carefully–to identify warning signs that children are suffering under “toxic stress,” a chronic stress condition that can have serious health implications later in life.
Toxic stress is different from everyday stress, as it is the result of prolonged exposure to intensely difficult situations, such as abusive or neglectful family relationships, poverty, or parental substance abuse or mental illness. Health conditions including mental illness, obesity, diabetes and heart disease are linked to toxic stress.
The Boston Globe’s child development blogger, Dr. Claudia M. Gold, argues that the new statement should be seen as a call to respect–both with time and wages–the work of primary care physicians, particularly pediatricians, as they can be the first line of defense in identifying and easing toxic stress:
As a culture we need to value the primary care clinician, not only in the form of payment equal to the more lucrative subspecialties, but in the form of recognizing the role of relationships in healing. It makes sense that if we are recognizing the importance of family relationships in preventing poor health outcomes, that we should recognize the importance of doctor-patient relationships in supporting these families.
When primary care clinicians take time to carefully listen to stressed parents, parents feel supported in their efforts to carefully listen to their children, thus promoting healthy development. In turn, our culture needs to support and value primary care clinicians ( and its not only pediatricians, the subject of this policy statement, but all those entrusted with primary care of children.)
Image: Upset child, via Shutterstock.
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