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Percentage of Abused Children Remained the Same Since 2008

Update Date: May 15, 2013 10:20 AM EDT
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A new government survey announced that since 2008, the rate of American children being mentally or physically abused has not changed at all. Although many people might be relieved that the rate did not increase, the fact that children continue to be abused steadily over the past few years is alarming. Studies have tied childhood abuse to several complications, such as antisocial personalities and anxiety disorders, which is why it is important to find different ways of lowering the percentage of abused victims.

"The good news is that a lot of people expected things to get worse given the economy was doing so bad," the study's head author and director of the University of New Hampshire's Crimes against Children Research Center in Durham, David Finklehor stated. "That's the good news but the bad news is that...the level of exposure to violence, to crime and all that stuff is really enormous to kids."

In this survey, the researchers recruited 4,503 children and interviewed them via phone in 2011. The researchers targeted homes that had children from the ages of one month to 17-years-old and interviewed one adult in the household and one of the children between the ages of 10 and 17-years-old. They discovered that two out of every five children or teenagers suffered from some kind of physical abuse in 2011, which is the same rate as before. One out of every 10 children or teenagers was injured from that type of abuse. These rates translate to 40 percent of children abused in 2010 and 10 percent injured.

The researchers found that boys tended to be abused more frequently than girls, and that one of the most common sources of abuse stemmed from fellow children, which included siblings. Of the sample interviewed, six percent reported being sexually harassed while two percent stated that they were sexually assaulted. These percentages were mostly composed from female victims between the ages of 14 and 17 with eight percent of them stating to have reported their abuse. Aside from direct physical abuse, about 14 percent of the sample stated that they dealt with maltreatment, which encompasses mental abuse, guardianship interference, and sexual abuse from a familiar adult. Nearly one-fourth of the group stated to have witnessed violence and crime, which includes domestic abuse.

The researchers theorized that the rates did not increase due to the fact that there are programs that effectively prevent violence in certain families. However, the researchers also stated that these numbers are still too high and that more should be done to lower them.

"I don't want anyone to get the impression that everything if hunky dory," Finkelhor stated. "We still have rates that are higher than in many other developed countries."

The study was published in JAMA Pediatrics

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