Child Abuse: An Overview

Costs to Society

In a 1992, a state-level analysis of the costs associated with child maltreatment and its consequences was undertaken in Michigan. “These costs were then compared to the costs of providing child maltreatment prevention services to all first time parents. The costs of child abuse were estimated at 823 million dollars annually. These costs include those associated with low birthweight babies, infant mortality, special education, protective service, foster care, juvenile and adult criminality, and psychological services. The costs of prevention programming were estimated to be 43 million dollars annually. This yields a 19 to 1 cost advantage to prevention.”9

Abuse of children costs us all. Even a simple economic analysis demonstrates enormous direct costs: medical care for injuries; medical care for the long term effects on survivors, mental health care for survivors; substance abuse treatment for survivors; mental health treatment for abusers; criminal justice system costs for police intervention, arrests, prosecution, and incarceration; legal system costs for lawyers and judges and courtrooms; costs to our educational system for special education services and counseling services; and social service costs for shelters, foster care, emergency housing, and case workers.

A closer look reveals hidden costs that may dwarf the direct costs discussed above. How much damage is done to our Gross Domestic Product every year due to the lost productivity in the work force alone? What is the cost of the lost potential of millions of children? What is the cost of human suffering of the child or of the family? What is the cost to our society of our turning a blind eye? How much does it cost a society to look away from the suffering of it’s children?

“Compared with women without (histories of abuse), those who reported having them had significantly greater functional disability and an increased number of distressing physical symptoms, reproductive and adult sexual health problems, health risk behaviors, and physician-coded International Classification of Diseases; Ninth Revision diagnoses.”29

“In 1994, 49% of US pregnancies were unintended. Approximately half of all unintended pregnancies result in abortion and those that result in live births are associated with more maternal complications and poorer infant outcomes than intended pregnancies. Adolescents who have been sexually abused are more likely to have a greater number of sexual partners and to not use contraception, behaviors that increase their risk of unintended pregnancy. Therefore, 1 in 5 unintended first pregnancies was associated with the woman’s history of abuse and household dysfunction during childhood.12

Child Abuse Introduction   |   Signs of Child Abuse
Child Abuse Statistics   |   It’s Under Reported
Effects of Child Abuse on Children: Abuse General
Effects of Child Abuse on Children: Child Sexual Abuse
Injuries to Children: Physical and Sexual Abuse
Effects of Child Abuse on Adults: Childhood Abuse
Effects of Child Abuse on Adults: Childhood Sexual Abuse
Definition of Physical Abuse   |   Signs of Physical Abuse
Definition of Sexual Abuse   |   Signs of Sexual Abuse
Definition of Child Neglect   |   Signs of Child Neglect
Definition of Emotional Abuse   |   Signs of Emotional Abuse
Abusers   |   Pedophiles
Child Physical Abuse and Corporal Punishment
Treatment for Child Abuse
Costs to Society
State Child Abuse Laws
Nationwide Crisis Line and Hotline Directory

Referring to this article:
“Child Abuse: An Overview” was written by C. J. Newton, MA, Learning Specialist and published in the Find (formerly Mental Health Journal in April, 2001.

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