Physical and sexual abuse of children has declined over the past two decades, but the number of children who experience emotional abuse and neglect--mostly by their parents--is increasing. These are the findings of a report by the Institute of Medicine, where researchers called the data a mixed blessing. More from NBC News:
Dr. Lolita McDavid, medical director of child advocacy and protection at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland, says she believes awareness explains a lot. "I think we are much more aware now that there is physical and sexual abuse and I think we do a much better job of making families and children understand that," McDavid told NBC News.
"We are empowering children."
But the experts say it's vital to look into the reasons that physical abuse may be going down, yet neglect and emotional abuse are staying at the same levels. They call for sustained federal research into what's going on and a new database to track child abuse statistics.
Even if numbers are going down, overall, many children are abused and neglected in the United States, the panel of experts reports.
"Each year more than 3 million referrals for child abuse and neglect are received that involve around 6 million children, although most of these reports are not substantiated," the report reads.
Image: Neglected girl, via Shutterstock