The total lifetime financial costs associated with one year's worth of confirmed cases of child maltreatment (physical abuse, sexual abuse, psychological abuse and neglect) is estimated at approximately $124 billion, according to a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
The study — published in Child Abuse and Neglect, The International Journal — looked at confirmed child maltreatment cases, 1,740 fatal and 579,000 nonfatal, during a 12-month period. The lifetime cost for each victim of child maltreatment who lived was $210,012, which is in the same range as other costly health conditions such as stroke and type 2 diabetes. The costs of each death because of child maltreatment are even higher.
"No child should ever be the victim of abuse or neglect — nor do they have to be," Linda C. Degutis, MSN, DrPH, director of CDC's National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, said in a news release. "The human and financial costs can be prevented through prevention of child maltreatment."
Child maltreatment has been shown to have many negative effects on survivors, including poorer health, social and emotional difficulties and decreased economic productivity. The CDC study found these negative effects over a survivor's lifetime generate costs that affect the nation's healthcare, education, criminal justice and welfare systems.
Among key findings, the estimated average lifetime cost per victim of nonfatal child maltreatment includes $32,648 in childhood healthcare costs, $10,530 in adult medical costs, $144,630 in productivity losses, $7,728 in child welfare costs, $6,747 in criminal justice costs and $7,999 in special education costs.
The estimated average lifetime cost per death includes $14,100 in medical costs and $1.258 million in productivity losses.
Child maltreatment can also be linked to many emotional, behavioral,and physical health problems, according to the study. Associated emotional and behavioral problems include aggression, conduct disorder, delinquency, antisocial behavior, substance abuse, intimate partner violence, teenage pregnancy, anxiety, depression and suicide.
Past research suggests that child maltreatment is a complicated problem. The behavior of parents and caregivers is influenced by a range of interrelated factors such as how they were raised, their parenting skills, the level of stress in their lives and the living conditions in their communities. Investing in effective strategies that touch on all sectors of society is critical because of this complexity, according to the CDC.
"Federal, state and local public health agencies as well as policymakers must advance the awareness of the lifetime economic impact of child maltreatment and take immediate action with the same momentum and intensity dedicated to other high-profile public health problems — in order to save lives, protect the public's health and save money," Degutis said.
Several programs have demonstrated reductions in child maltreatment and have great potential to reduce the human and economic toll on society, according to CDC.
One example is the Nurse-Family Partnership, an evidence-based community health program that partners an RN with a first-time mother during pregnancy and continues through the child's second birthday (www.nursefamilypartnership.org).
The article, "The economic burden of child maltreatment in the United States and implications for prevention," is available at http://bit.ly/yfP07a.