Rate of Child Abuse in U.S. in Decline, Researchers Say

Varied indicators of the rate of child abuse in the United States agree it has dropped over the past twenty years, according to a report in the New York Times.

Some of the evidence comes from the National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect. Substantiated cases of sexual abuse per 10,000 children declined from 23 in 1990 to 9 in 2010.

An annual survey of Minnesota school children produced 29 percent fewer reports of abuse by an adult outside the child’s family in 2010 than in 1992. The same survey showed a 28 percent decrease in reports of abuse by a family member during the same period.

Among the causes of the decline, according to David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, are greater public awareness, more prevention efforts, specialized policing, and coordinated response in many cities through child advocacy centers.

Lucy Berliner of the Harborview Center for Sexual Assault and Traumatic Stress in Seattle noted many child advocacy groups have mixed feelings about the reports of decline. “It is very risky to suggest that the problem you’re involved with has gotten smaller,” she said. The result can be loss of funding. Berliner counsels the groups to argue that the decline shows government’s investments have paid off.