U.S. Child Abuse Cases Falling, Despite Recession

Worsening economy has not led to higher incidence between 2007-08, researchers say

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 25, 2010 (HealthDay News) -- Child abuse rates in the United States declined between 2007 and 2008 despite the onset of the economic recession, a new study has found.

Cases of child sexual abuse decreased 6 percent, physical abuse declined 3 percent and child neglect fell 2 percent, according to researchers at the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire.

Researchers led by center director and professor of sociology David Finkelhor said the decreases are especially noteworthy because 2008 was the first full year of the current recession and tough economic times are believed to be associated with increased family stress and child abuse.

"This is good news, but we need to be very cautious. It could be that discouragement and despair in families about their deteriorating economic situation take longer than a year to show their effects," Finkelhor said in a university news release.

However, the study did note that the recent decrease is part of a downward trend in physical and sexual abuse that's continued for more than 15 years.

"The long-term improvement for sexual and physical abuse may be related to a generation-long effort to educate and respond more effectively and aggressively to the problem," Finkelhor said. "If successful prevention efforts are behind the declines, then the improvements may persist even in the face of social stressors like the recession."

More information

The American Academy of Pediatrics has more about child abuse.

SOURCE: University of New Hampshire, news release, Aug. 24, 2010
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