Physical maltreatment of children

Other Names:
Violence against children
Battered children
Child beating
Physical child abuse
Violence to little children

Excessive physical punishment and abuse of young children, unable to protect themselves or seek outside protection, may result in physical or mental handicap, or both, or death. Often abused children are not living with both natural parents and martial problems are frequent causes of stress leading to abuse.

Physically abused children's traumas range from very mild to cases with injury to the skeleton and soft tissues. Children's health is often below par and frequently show evidence of neglect, including poor skin hygiene and multiple soft-tissue minor injuries. Bruises from blows and bites; head injuries from blows to the head or shaking; burns from scalding water, heated surfaces or open flames; and fractures are common; poisons and lacerations are relatively uncommon. Injuries to eyes can be caused by blows to the head or by shaking. The most common cause of death from child abuse is multiple rib fractures and lacerations of the lungs, liver, spleen, mesentery, and pancreas.


Accurate figures about the extent of child abuse world wide are difficult to gather because in perhaps most cases the whole family is involved. When a social atmosphere is created where people can freely talk about their experiences the figures are much higher than estimated. In the State of Florida one year the number of child abuse cases was seventeen the following year after a child abuse hot-line was established the number rose to over nineteen thousand. An estimated 10% of hospitalized, abused children die, another 10% suffer from permanent mental or physical handicap, or both (USA). Further statistics from the USA put the instances of known child abuse or neglect cases at 1.6 million in 1986. Another study suggests that there are approximately 6.5 million cases per year of children between the ages of 3 and 17 based on violent acts carried out toward children, rather than on injuries received. In the USA in 1990 it was estimated that nearly one million children between the ages of 12 and 19 were raped, robbed or assaulted each year.

In the former West Germany, in 1987, one thousand children were estimated to have died from beating from their parents; and some 15-18,000 children a year are severely abused. In France recent surveys have put the number of abused children at about 50,000 a year. Death from ill treatment is estimated at 500 a year. In the UK over 7,000 children were so badly hurt in 1993 that they required medical treatment.

Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 3: Good Health and Well-being
Problem Type:
D: Detailed problems
Date of last update
04.10.2020 – 22:48 CEST