Which children are most vulnerable to abuse?

There is no way to know which children are most vulnerable to abuse, but there are some factors for abuse and neglect risk to be aware of

Child factors:
  • very young children
  • children with disabilities and health problems
  • children who have already been, or are currently being, abused and/or neglected
Parental factors:
  • parents who are young when child is born
  • parents who are poorly informed about parenting
  • mental health issues, especially untreated (e.g. depression, antisocial personality disorder, substance abuse and related disorders)
Other contextual factors:
Family factors
  • single parent households
  • intimate-partner violence
  • emotional and financial stress
Environmental factors
  • poverty
  • social isolation
  • violence in the community
Child abuse can include neglect as well as sexual, physical or emotional abuse. According to the Department of Health’s Report on Child Maltreatment, almost 200,000 children under the age of 3 (about 27% of all victims) were the victims of abuse in the United States in one year alone. Victims age 3 to 5 made up almost another 20% of all abuse. Clearly, the youngest children are the most vulnerable.

The most frequent form of abuse documented was neglect; however, all other forms of abuse were still prevalent. Nationally, the majority of abusers are family members (30-40%) or family acquaintances (50%); only 10% of child abuse is by a stranger.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.