The number of children identified as abused or neglected almost doubled between 1986 and 1993

An estimated 2,815,600 children were identified as maltreated in 1993

The third National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect (NIS-3) reports information on children harmed or believed to be harmed by maltreatment in 1993. Child maltreatment includes physical, sexual, and emotional abuse, as well as physical, emotional, and educational neglect by a caretaker. Victims of maltreatment may die as the result of abuse or neglect or may experience serious or moderate harm. A child may also be in danger of harm as the result of maltreatment, or harm may be inferred when maltreatment is sufficiently severe.

NIS-3 includes maltreatment reported to researchers not only by child protective services agencies, but by other investigatory agencies (e.g., police, courts, public health departments) and community institutions (e.g., hospitals, schools, day care centers, and social service agencies). It does not include cases known only to family members or neighbors.


Most maltreated children were neglected in 1993

NIS-3 counts each incident of abuse or neglect that occurs. A single child may experience many types of abuse or neglect. In 1993, 70% of maltreated children were victims of neglect and 43% were victims of abuse. More specifically:

  • 47% were physically neglected.

  • Almost equal proportions of maltreated children were physically abused (22%), emotionally neglected (21%), and emotionally abused (19%).

  • 11% were sexually abused; 14% were educationally neglected.

There are several different types of child maltreatment

Child maltreatment occurs when a caretaker (a parent or parent substitute, such as a daycare provider) is responsible for, or permits, the abuse or neglect of a child. The maltreatment can result in actual physical or emotional harm, or it can place the child in danger of physical or emotional harm. The following types of maltreatment were included in NIS-3:

Physical abuse includes physical acts that caused or could have caused physical injury to the child.

Sexual abuse is involvement of the child in sexual activity to provide sexual gratification or financial benefit to the perpetrator, including contacts for sexual purposes, prostitution, pornography, or other sexually exploitative activities.

Emotional abuse is defined as acts (including verbal or emotional assault) or omissions that caused or could have caused conduct, cognitive, affective, or other mental disorders.

Physical neglect includes abandonment, expulsion from the home, delay or failure to seek remedial health care, inadequate supervision, disregard for hazards in the home, or inadequate food, clothing, or shelter.

Emotional neglect includes inadequate nurturance or affection, permitting maladaptive behavior, and other inattention to emotional/developmental needs.

Educational neglect includes permitting the child to be chronically truant or other inattention to educational needs.

Types of maltreatment are related to the characteristics of the child

The incidence of maltreatment varied by sex and age but not by race or ethnicity:

  • The incidence of sexual abuse was almost three times greater among females than males in 1993. In contrast, emotional neglect was more common among males than females.

  • The incidence of maltreatment increased more among males than among females between 1986 and 1993 (102% vs. 68%).

  • Between 1986 and 1993 the incidence of maltreatment grew among all children except those ages 15-17.

  • Moderate injuries were more frequent among older than younger children. Age differences were not found for other levels of injury.

  • Younger children (ages 0-11) were perceived to be endangered more frequently than older children (ages 15-17).

  • Children ages 0-2 and 15-17 had the lowest incidence of maltreatment in 1993.


More maltreatment was reported among lower income families in 1993

Children from families with an annual income of less than $15,000 were found to have substantially more maltreatment of all types than children from families of greater incomes. The abuse rate in these lowest income families was two times the rate of families with higher incomes. Similarly, the neglect rate was more than three times higher in these families. Compared with those from families with incomes above $15,000, children in lower income families had a higher injury rate in every injury category except fatalities.

Children of single parents were at higher risk of maltreatment in 1993

The risk of maltreatment was twice as great for children of single parents than children living with both parents. Compared with children living with both parents, children living with single parents were twice as likely to be neglected and were marginally more likely to be abused. Children living with a single parent of either sex experienced a higher incidence of physical and educational neglect than those living with both parents and were marginally more likely to experience emotional neglect. Children from single parent homes were at higher risk of injury and of being endangered by maltreatment than those living with both parents in 1993.

Maltreatment is related to family size

  • Children living in larger families with four or more children were physically neglected almost three times more often than those living in one-child families and more than twice as often as those living in families with two or three children.

  • Serious injuries were equally likely in families of all sizes.

  • Moderate injury was more frequently experienced by maltreated children in larger families than in those with either two or three children. Children in these largest families also experienced higher rates of endangerment.

The majority of maltreated children were victimized by their birth parents

Birth parents accounted for the largest proportion of maltreatment victimizations in 1993 (78%), followed by other types of parents (14%) and other perpetrators (9%). Children victimized by their birth parents were twice as likely to experience neglect than abuse in 1993. More specifically, among children victimized by their birth parents:

  • The most common forms of maltreatment involved educational neglect (29%), physical neglect (27%), and physical abuse (23%).

  • 16% were victims of emotional neglect and 14% were victims of emotional abuse.

  • 5% were sexually abused.

In contrast to children victimized by their birth parents, those maltreated by other types of parents were almost twice as likely to be abused than neglected. For example:

  • Physical abuse was the most common form of maltreatment (37%).

  • One-quarter of these children were victims of sexual abuse.

  • One-fifth were victims of educational neglect.

  • The least common forms of maltreatment involved physical neglect (9%) and emotional abuse (13%).

Children maltreated by birth parents were twice as likely to suffer a fatal or serious injury than those maltreated by others


Most maltreatment cases are recognized by schools

Because of the large volume of children attending schools, more maltreated children were identified by schools in 1993 than by other community agencies and institutions combined:


One third of alleged child maltreatment cases were investigated by child protective services in 1993

Child protective service agencies investigated 33% of the cases known to community agencies and institutions in 1993. The remaining cases were either not reported or reported but not investigated by child protective services. The highest rates of investigations occurred among cases recognized by police and sheriff departments (52%), hospitals (46%), and mental health agencies (42%). In contrast, the lowest rates of investigations occurred among cases recognized by daycare centers (3%) and public health agencies (4%).


Investigations were more likely among children recognized as abused than neglected in 1993

Children alleged to be physically or sexually abused were investigated by child protective services more frequently than other maltreated children.

Child protective services agencies received 2 million reports of child maltreatment in 1994

NCANDS monitors the caseloads of child protective services

The National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect (NCCAN) annually collects child maltreatment data from child protective service agencies. The National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS) employs both a summary and case level approach to data collection. Summary data provide national information on a number of key indicators of child abuse and neglect cases in 1994. Case-level data provide descriptive information on cases referred to child protective service agencies in 1993.

About 1.6 million child abuse and neglect investigations were conducted in 1994

Child protective service agencies conducted investigations on 82% of the estimated 2 million reports of child abuse and neglect in 1994. In 37% of these investigations the allegation was either substantiated (i.e., the allegation of maltreatment or risk of maltreatment was supported or founded) or indicated (i.e., the allegation could not be substantiated, but there was reason to suspect the child was maltreated or was at risk of maltreatment). More than half (56%) of all investigations were not substantiated or indicated. The remaining 7% were closed without a finding or were found to be intentionally false reports.


Information contained in reports varied by the source of the report

Ten States provided detailed data on the source of reports received by child protective service agencies during 1993. This information shows that:

  • About one-half (52%) of all victims reported by medical professionals were under age 4. Almost two-thirds (64%) of victims reported by educators were over age 7.

  • Reports from professionals were more likely than those from nonprofessionals to be substantiated or indicated (53% vs. 37%).

  • Professionals were more likely than others to report physical abuse (26% vs. 16%) and less likely than others to report neglect (52% vs. 68%).

Physical abuse was linked to 63% of maltreatment deaths


Detailed information from States reporting case-level data on victims of substantiated or indicated maltreatment in 1993 found the following:

  • Neglect was the most common form of maltreatment found among all age groups (57%). Younger children (under age 8) were more likely than older children (ages 8-17) to have been neglected (65% vs. 46%).

  • Older victims were more likely than their younger counterparts to have been physically (28% vs. 17%) or sexually abused (18% vs. 9%).

  • Female victims were more likely than males to have experienced sexual abuse (19% vs. 6%) and less likely to have experienced neglect (53% vs. 61%).

  • 50% of deaths resulting from child maltreatment were linked to neglect; 63% were linked to physical abuse.

  • Almost one-half (43%) of all deaths involved children under 1 year and 4 in 5 (81%) were under 4 years.

  • More than one-half (56%) of fatalities were male.

Over 1,000 children died as a result of maltreatment in 1994

The 1994 national summary data on substantiated or indicated maltreatment found the following:

  • 53% of victims were female.

  • 59% of victims were white, 27% were black, 10% were Hispanic, and 4% were other races.

  • 20% of victims were age 2 or younger, 53% were age 7 or younger, and 6% were age 16 or older.

  • 4 in 5 perpetrators were parents of the victim.

  • A reported 1,111 children died as the result of maltreatment in 1994.

  • About 13% of victims in substantiated or indicated cases were removed from their homes.

Most perpetrators were female and under age 40 in 1993


The 1993 case-level data on perpetrators of substantiated or indicated maltreatment were provided by seven States. This information showed that:

  • 62% of perpetrators were female.

  • Most perpetrators under age 40 were female (65%), while most perpetrators over 40 were male (55%).

  • 63% of perpetrators were associated with only one victim, 19% were associated with two victims, 10% with three victims, and 8% with four or more victims.

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Juvenile Offenders and Victims: 1997 Update on Violence