Twenty years ago the National Research Council (NRC) issued a comprehensive report on child abuse. That report noted that child abuse was much more common than previously thought and called for urgent action.
This past week the NRC and the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released an update: New Directions in Child Abuse Research.
The good news – physical and sexual abuse of children is down. The bad news – emotional and psychological abuse is up.
The main risk factors for child abuse were parental depression, substance abuse, and a history of abuse and neglect as a child. Home mortgage foreclosure increased child abuse and neglect, but parental unemployment did not.
Overall 6 million children a year are abused in the United States.
The authors of this review conclude that while we know a lot more about the biology of child abuse – exactly how it seems to affect a child’s brain development and why it causes such long lasting effects in many children – we have not done very much to prevent it.
They conclude, “federal support [of programs to reduce the incidence of child abuse] needs to be established and implemented immediately.”