It has been 20 years since the National Research Council (NRC) issued a report on child neglect and abuse. Yesterday, the Institute of Medicine and National Research Council released a report, New Directions in Child Abuse and Neglect Research, to provide updated statistical information and recommendations concerning this public-health challenge that affects approximately 6 million children a year.
The NRC found that while rates of child neglect have remained steady and physical and sexual abuse have declined since its 1993 report—emotional and psychological abuse, which can lead to depression and attention difficulties, have risen. The leading factors linked to increased risk for child abuse and neglect were parental depression, substance abuse, and a history of abuse and neglect as a child. Home mortgage foreclosure also increased likelihood for child abuse and neglect, but not parental unemployment.
Though research has made major advances in illuminating developmental and biological processes associated with abuse and neglect—such as alternations in prefrontal cortex physiology—the Committee on Child Maltreatment Research, Policy, and Practice for the Next Decade, Phase II, which was organized by the NRC and the Institute of Medicine to study the issue, emphasized that "federal support [of programs to reduce the incidence of child abuse] needs to be established and implemented immediately." The committee recommended the implementation for more collaborations between federal agencies, private foundations, and academic institutions to pinpoint at risk populations, and further expand research that assesses the long term mental and physical affects child abuse and neglect.
To read more about research studies on the long-term effects of child abuse and neglect, see the Psychiatric News article "Childhood Abuse Can Weaken Adults’ Immune Response to Skin Cancer."