Child Abuse: An Overview


Most abusers are members of the victim’s family, either a caretaker or parent or a close relative. This includes physical, emotional, and sexual abuse and child neglect.1,2,10,27 90% of confirmed physical abuse and neglect cases involve caretakers of children.10 Contrary to common belief, males and females perpetrate abuse against their own children at surprisingly similar rates. “Among all abused children, those abused by their birth parents were about equally likely to have been abused by mothers as by fathers (50% and 58%, respectively), but those abused by other parents, parent-substitutes, or other, nonparental perpetrators were much more likely to be abused by males (80 to 90% by males versus 14 to 15% by females). Children who had been physically abused by their birth parents were more likely to have suffered at the hands of their mothers than their fathers (60% versus 48%), while those who had been physically abused by other parents or parent- substitutes were much more likely to have been abused by their fathers or father-substitutes (90% by their fathers versus 19% by their mothers).”27 On the whole, children are somewhat more likely to be maltreated by female perpetrators than by males: “65 percent of the maltreated children had been maltreated by a female, whereas 54 percent had been maltreated by a male.”27 This last statistic is unfair because it includes child neglect, in which mothers are named at rates that are absurd given that women accused of child neglect are almost always single mothers. The fathers who abandon their children are almost never convicted of child neglect. Still, the statistic shows the current state of affairs.

Though there is no “cause” of abuse and no specific profile of abusers, many factors contribute and make abuse more likely to occur. Pressures on the family, alcohol and drug abuse, and social isolation can all lead to parental stress and increase the chances that a parent will strike out at their child. If an adult expects too much of a child or if a child has learning or behavior problems, or mental illness, or is the result of an unplanned pregnancy, the child is much more likely to be abused or neglected. If the adult was abused as a child or has psychological or medical problems, he or she is much more likely to abuse or neglect.

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.

Use or reference to this article on the Internet must be accompanied by a link to the page you cite.

Visit BetterHelp, our Top rated online therapy provider.


This blog post is sponsored by BetterHelp, but all opinions are our own.”

“ may receive compensation from BetterHelp or other sources if you purchase products or services through the links provided on this page.”