Child Abuse

January 30, 1976

Report Outline
Concern Over Violence in the Family
Child Protection in Tradition and Law
Action to Protect Children from Abuse
Special Focus

Concern Over Violence in the Family

Severity of the Child Abuse and Neglect Problem

Child abuse is so appalling that some people refuse to believe it exists at all. Unfortunately, however, it is very real. According to recent estimates supplied to the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) by the American Humane Association, one million children are the object of neglect or abuse each year, and 2,000 to 4,000 die from circumstances involving abuse or neglect (see box, p. 70). Wayne Sage, a contributing editor to Human Beharior magazine, has written that “more children under the age of five die at the hands of their own parents than are killed by tuberculosis, whooping cough, polio, measles, diabetes, rheumatic fever and hepatitis combined.”

It is difficult to determine if the American Humane Association's estimates represent an increase in the actual number of child abuse cases since little data had been compiled previously on the subject nationwide. “We are not sure there is an increase, we just know that more instances are being reported,” said Stanley B. Thomas Jr., assistant HEW secretary for human development, at a news conference in Atlanta in January 1976. Douglas Besharov, director of HEW's National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect, told Editorial Research Reports: “Until three months ago I would have said we don't know. But recently I have gotten the unmistakable impression that we're seeing an increase [in child abuse] particularly related to the unemployment situation. In one county in Florida, for example, there's been a major increase in reports involving unemployed construction workers.” Besharov has said that the American Humane Association's figures indicated a child abuse rate of “epidemic” proportions. Consider these cases:

On Christmas Day, a woman appeared on television in New York City to ask for help in finding her two missing children. The next day the children's bodies were found. The children had been beaten to death, placed in a cardboard box and then set on fire. The mother and a male friend were charged with murdering them.

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