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  • Human Rights Research Center

Devastations of Child Abuse: A Global and Nationwide Overview

April 24, 2024

Global Overview

No matter how advanced the world is progressing, there will always be the bad to balance out the good. One of them is child abuse. Unfortunately, child abuse is very common globally with 3 in 4 children aged 2-4 years regularly suffering physical and/or psychological violence and 1 in 2 children ages 2-17 years suffering some form of violence [10][13]. According to the 2020 Pan American Health Organization Violence Against Children Report [10] (PAHO), 58% of children in Latin America and 61% in North America experienced physical, sexual, and/or emotional abuse. These numbers are also underestimated, as much of child abuse is not reported, with limited reports and surveys.

As one of the most prominent forms of maltreatment, sexual violence is a favored form of abuse. The World Health Organization [13] (WHO) reported that 1 in 5 women and 1 in 13 men have been sexually abused during childhood. Based on research by the Internet Watch Foundation [8] (IWF), the European Union still has the highest amount of child sexual abuse material in the world, with the highest reports in the Netherlands (32%) followed by Slovakia (12%). IWF’s 2022 annual report found most materials are of children between 7-13 years of age with 96% being of girls. However, in recent years there has been an uptake of 137% in the imagery of young boys [7].

United States of America Overview

National child maltreatment statistics portray an alarming picture of child abuse in the United States. The American Society for the Positive Care of Children [2] provides statistics that shed light on the severity of this issue. In 2022, almost 4.3 million child maltreatment referral reports were received with 89% of victims maltreated by one or both parents. Yet, only 3 million children received any prevention or post-response services. The most common child abuse cases were for children below the age of one, with neglect being the highest maltreatment type followed by physical, sexual, and psychological abuse.

Racial disproportionality is common in child abuse as well. Even though the largest race of children is White (~43%), American Indian or Alaskan Native children have the highest victimization rate of 15.2 per 1,000 children in the population of the same race/ethnicity, while African American children are second with 13.1 per 1,000 children1. This reflects the US’s societal and racial dynamics and emphasizes the need for collaborative partnerships between local and governmental organizations to identify and reduce these disparities.

Ironically, the United States stands at the forefront of childhood opportunities, yet is 31st out of 36 OECD countries for a child’s well-being [6]. While the U.S. has the greatest number of millionaires and billionaires, the country ranks next to last in public spending on children and families and is the only member of the United Nations that has not ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child [6].

A blatant testimony to the worst of child abuse, this story was covered by multiple news outlets [3][4][11]. In June 2023, 16-month-old Jailyn Candelario was left alone in her playpen by her mother Kristel Candelario while she took a vacation to Detroit and Puerto Rico. She did not return until 10 days later to her Cleveland home. Jailyn was pronounced dead shortly after emergency responders arrived wrapped in dirty blankets and surrounded by her feces and urine. The autopsy by the Cuyahoga County medical examiner’s office determined that the toddler died of starvation and severe dehydration. Almost a year later in March 2024, Kristal Candelario pleaded guilty to murder and is now serving life in prison without parole.

General Risk Factors and Long-Term Consequences of Child Abuse

Risk Factors

Many risk factors have been identified that may present a higher likelihood for child abuse to occur [2][13]. But, it’s imperative to remember that children are the victims and never at fault for their maltreatment.



The results of maltreatment cause long-term multigenerational physical and emotional problems. Children who are abused are 25% more likely to experience teen pregnancy with a greater risk of contracting STDs [2]. Maltreated children have an increased likelihood of developing behavioral, physical, and mental health disorders like depression, obesity, alcohol and drug misuse, and perpetrating or being a victim of violence13. As these children grow up, the effects of abuse don’t just disappear. Approximately 80% of previously abused 21-year-olds met the criteria for at least one mental disorder, 43% have a higher risk of dying in early adulthood, and 30% will continue abusing their children [2].

Existing Plans and Policies in Place


The Pan American Health Organization [10] (PAHO) created INSPIRE, evidence-based strategies that have brought awareness to help unify multisectoral efforts within countries. This report has encouraged deeper engagement to prevent and treat the consequences of child violence.


The following bills were some of the efforts to strengthen the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) [9].


View the visual report on our website here or download by clicking the button below.

Child Abuse and Violence_ Global vs Nationwide
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  1. Administration for Children & Families. (2023, February 9). New Child Maltreatment Report Finds Child Abuse and Neglect Decreased to a Five-Year Low. Administration for Children & Families.

  2. American Society for the Positive Care of Children. (n.d.). Child Maltreatment Statistics. American Society for the Positive Care of Children.

  3. AP News. (2024, March 18). Ohio mom who left toddler alone 10 days when she went on vacation pleads guilty to aggravated murder. AP News.

  4. Bonmatí, D., & Telemundo, N. (2024, March 21). Mother sentenced to life for her toddler’s death blames mental health for leaving child alone to go on vacation. NBC News.

  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, April 6). Fast Facts: Preventing Child Abuse & Neglect. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  6. Children’s Defense Fund. (2020, March 13). How America Ranks in Protecting Children. Children’s Defense Fund.’s%20standing%20in%20the,countries%20for%20child%20well%2Dbeing.

  7. Internet Watch Foundation. (2023, April 25). IWF Annual Report 2022. Internet Watch Foundation.

  8. Internet Watch Foundation. (2023, April 26). EU still hosts the most child sexual abuse material in the world. Internet Watch Foundation.

  9. National Association of Mandated Reporters. (2022). 2021 Bills that Strengthen Child Abuse Laws in the US. National Association of Mandated Reporters.

  10. Pan American Health Organization. (2020). Violence against children. Pan American Health Organization.,abuse%20in%20the%20past%20year

  11. Pannett, R. (2024, March 19). Mother who left baby at home for 10-day vacation gets life for murder. Washington Post.

  12. UNICEF. (n.d.). Global Annual Results Report 2021: Every child is protected from violence and exploitation. UNICEF.

  13. World Health Organization. (2022, September 19). Child maltreatment. World Health Organization.


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