Child Abuse and Neglect Cost the United States $124 Billion, Study Says

Child Abuse and Neglect Cost the United States $124 Billion, Study Says

February 3, 2012 Updated Feb 3, 2012 at 2:58 PM EDT

(CDC news release) According to a report released this week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the total lifetime estimated financial costs associated with just one year of confirmed cases of child maltreatment (physical abuse, sexual abuse, psychological abuse and neglect) is approximately $124 billion.

The study looked at confirmed child maltreatment cases, 1,740 fatal and 579,000 non–fatal, for a 12–month period. The lifetime cost for each victim of child maltreatment who lived was $210,012, which is comparable to other costly health conditions, such as stroke with a lifetime cost per person estimated at $159,846 or type 2 diabetes, which is estimated between $181,000 and $253,000.  The costs of each death due to child maltreatment are even higher.

“No child should ever be the victim of abuse or neglect – nor do they have to be.  The human and financial costs can be prevented through prevention of child maltreatment,” Linda C. Degutis, director of CDC′s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, said in the news release.

Child maltreatment has been shown to have many negative effects on survivors, including poorer health, social and emotional difficulties, and decreased economic productivity.  The CDC study found these negative effects over a survivor′s lifetime generate many costs that impact the nation′s health care, education, criminal justice and welfare systems.

Key findings:

* The estimated average lifetime cost per victim of nonfatal child maltreatment includes:

o $32,648 in childhood health care costs
o $10,530 in adult medical costs
o $144,360 in productivity losses
o $7,728 in child welfare costs
o $6,747 in criminal justice costs
o $7,999 in special education costs

* The estimated average lifetime cost per death includes:

o $14,100 in medical costs
o $1,258,800 in productivity losses

Child maltreatment can also be linked to many emotional, behavioral, and physical health problems. Associated emotional and behavioral problems include aggression, conduct disorder, delinquency, antisocial behavior, substance abuse, intimate partner violence, teenage pregnancy, anxiety, depression, and suicide.

Past research suggests that child maltreatment is a complicated problem, and so its solutions cannot be simple. An individual parent or caregiver′s behavior is influenced by a range inter–related factors such as how they were raised, their parenting skills, the level of stress in their life, and the living conditions in their community.  Because of this complexity, it is critical to invest in effective strategies that touch on all sectors of society. 

“Federal, state, and local public health agencies as well as policymakers must advance the awareness of the lifetime economic impact of child maltreatment and take immediate action with the same momentum and intensity dedicated to other high profile public health problems –in order to save lives, protect the public′s health, and save money,” said Degutis.

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