The statistics are sobering. According to a recent report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:
- approximately 695,000 children were victims of maltreatment in 2010;
- more than 80% of those victims were maltreated by a parent; and
- children younger than 1 year had the highest rate of victimization.
Adult survivors of child maltreatment are more likely to have a poor quality of life, with higher levels of chronic diseases and mental health issues, than non-abused adults. “Childhood exposure to abuse and neglect has been linked…to a lifetime trajectory of violence perpetration and victimization,” says Dr. Phaedra Corso of the University of Georgia’s College of Public Health (Prevent Child Abuse America, 2012). Child abuse can be a vicious circle, and some families under stress need support to help break the pattern of abuse.
Now in its 30th year, National Child Abuse Prevention Month is a time to encourage public awareness of child abuse and neglect, recommit resources to the cause, and promote involvement through national, state, and local activities.
Potential Early Indicators
The prevalence of child abuse and its long-term consequences—not only for the child but also for society as a whole—clearly demonstrates why prevention is so important. An early indicator that a family may be at risk for child abuse is high levels of parenting stress, and research has clearly demonstrated that parenting stress is positively correlated to child abuse potential (Rodriguez & Green, 1997).
“Parenting stress is a universal phenomenon that all parents experience to one degree or another,” explains Dr. Richard Abidin, emeritus professor of clinical and school psychology at the University of Virginia and author of the newly revised Parenting Stress Index™ (PSI™-4). “What we have learned is that high levels of stress relate to a variety of dysfunctional parenting behaviors and negative child outcomes. Screening for and evaluating the sources of parenting stress allow for the implementation of prevention and early intervention in both primary health care and education systems.”
More Resources on Child Abuse Prevention and Parenting
- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Child Welfare Information Gateway is an excellent starting point for information on preventing child abuse and neglect.
- Prevent Child Abuse America is a nonprofit organization dedicated to building awareness, providing education, and inspiring hope to everyone involved in the effort to prevent the abuse and neglect of children. Information about PCA state chapters, as well as advocacy, research, conferences, and events, can be found on their Web site.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Violence Prevention Web site includes a wealth of information on child maltreatment prevention, including data and statistics, risk and protective factors, and prevention strategies.
- An excellent source of general parenting information for sharing with families, the Child Development Institute offers strategies and tips on topics such as “Parenting 101,” socialization for kids and teens, parent-child communication, single parenting, divorce, and more.
What special programs or events are happening in your community to recognize National Child Abuse Prevention Month? Leave a comment and join the conversation!