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Child Abuse

Special Feature
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A child’s exposure to violence, crime, and abuse can lead to serious health and well-being consequences that can last long into adulthood.

Results from research supported by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) showed that childhood abuse increased the risk of adulthood crime by promoting antisocial behavior during childhood and adolescence, followed by the formation of relationships with antisocial romantic partners and peers in adulthood.

The investigation of child abuse is a critical and sensitive issue that affects the safety and well-being of children nationwide. Law enforcement personnel often have the difficult task of determining if a child’s injury is accidental or deliberately inflicted.

To help law enforcement differentiate between physical abuse and accidental injury, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) published Recognizing When a Child’s Injury or Illness is Caused by Abuse, which outlines the critical questions to ask when making this judgment. Additionally, a recent NIJ Journal article discusses a series of research projects characterizing pediatric injuries, modeling injury risk, and building an evidence base to help determine the likelihood of abuse as the cause of injuries in children.

The Office for Victims of Crime is committed to improving the response to crime victims, including child and youth victims. Additionally, OJJDP funds projects, programs, and training that are critical to the intervention and investigation of child abuse and neglect cases. Also, NIJ continues to fund research that expands our understanding of children's exposure to violence and informs the development and enhancement of strategies to reduce the impact of violence on children and youth.

While federal legislation provides a foundation for states by identifying a set of acts or behaviors that define child abuse and neglect, each state has its own definitions of child abuse and neglect based on these standards.

Visit the following pages for additional information and resources produced or sponsored by the Office of Justice Programs and other federal sources:

Date Modified: March 31, 2021
Date Created: August 14, 2020