Research on child abuse and neglect provides an opportunity for society to address, and ultimately prevent, a range of individual and social disorders that impair the health and quality of life of millions of America's children as well as their families and communities.
Research on child maltreatment can provide insights and knowledge that can directly benefit victims of child abuse and neglect and their families.
One analysis cited by the General Accounting Office that used prevalence and treatment rates generated from multiple studies (Daro, 1988) calculated potential fiscal costs resulting from child abuse estimates as follows: (1) Assuming a 20 percent delinquency rate among adolescent abuse victims, requiring an average of 2 years in a correctional institution, the public cost of their incarceration would be more than $14.8 million.
(2) If 1 percent of severely abused children suffer permanent disabilities, the annual cost of community services (estimated at $13 per day) for treating developmentally disabled children would increase by $1.1 million.
Research in this field is demonstrating that experiences with child abuse and neglect are a major component of many child and adult mental and behavioral disorders, including delayed development, poor academic performance, delinquency, depression, alcoholism, substance abuse, deviant sexual behaviors, and domestic and criminal violence.
Many forms of child abuse and neglect are treatable and avoidable, and many severe consequences of child maltreatment can be diminished with proper attention and assistance.In 1990, over 2 million cases of child abuse and neglect were reported to social service agencies.In the period 1979 through 1988, about 2,000 child deaths (ages 0-17) were recorded annually as a result of abuse and neglect (Mc Clain et al., 1993), and an additional 160,000 cases resulted in serious injuries in 1990 alone (Daro and Mc Curdy, 1991).For those who survive, the long-term consequences of child maltreatment appear to be more damaging to victims and their families, and more costly for society, than the immediate or acute injuries themselves.Yet little is invested in understanding the factors that predispose, mitigate, or prevent the behavioral and social consequences of child maltreatment.American society has not yet recognized the complex origins or the profound consequences of child victimization.The services required for children who have been abused or neglected, including medical care, family counseling, foster care, and specialized education, are expensive and are often subsidized by governmental funds.However tragic and sensational, the counts of deaths and serious injuries provide limited insight into the pervasive long-term social, behavioral, and cognitive consequences of child abuse and neglect.Reports of child maltreatment alone also reveal little about the interactions among individuals, families, communities, and society that lead to such incidents.The General Accounting Office (1991) has estimated that these services cost more than 0 million annually.Equally disturbing, research suggests that child maltreatment cases are highly related to social problems such as juvenile delinquency, substance abuse, and violence, which require additional services and severely affect the quality of life for many American families.