Focus on the Figures: Substantiations, By Type of Abuse or Neglect

Every other week, The Chronicle of Social Change will feature one key indicator from, which offers comprehensive data about the health and well being of children across California.

In 2012, there were 81,764 cases of substantiated child abuse or neglect in California. Of those, 61.9 percent were due to “general neglect,” which means the parent, guardian, or caregiver failed to provide adequate food, shelter, medical care, or supervision for the child, but no physical injury occurred. Another 8.7 percent were due to different kinds of neglect: “Severe Neglect” (3.5 percent) and “Caretaker Absence” (5.2 percent).

A recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that while the death rate among physically abused children is substantially higher than that of neglected children, neglected children are more likely to die of an unintentional injury than children who have been physically abused.

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Neglect consistently is the most common type of child maltreatment in California, but the state’s proportion of substantiated cases related to abuse is 29.3 percent, well above the 17.6 percent nationally cited in the federal report Child Maltreatment 2011. Nearly 80 percent of substantiated maltreatment cases related to neglect, according to that report, compared with 70.6 percent in California.

The difference may be explained by the way California views “emotional” maltreatment. The California data categorizes this as “Emotional Abuse,” but other states contributing to national data may not. The Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act sets basic definitions around abuse and neglect, but according to, “each State provides its own definitions of maltreatment within civil and criminal statutes.”

“Emotional Abuse” accounts for 8.2 percent of the total substantiated child abuse/neglect cases in California.

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John Kelly, Editor in Chief, The Chronicle of Social Change
About John Kelly, Editor in Chief, The Chronicle of Social Change 1210 Articles
John Kelly is editor-in-chief of The Chronicle of Social Change. Reach him at

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