Child Abuse Cases Increase with Income Inequality: Study

By Vishakha Sonawane, Parent Herald February 12, 08:08 am

Child abuse cases increase in places where the gap between rich and poor is high, a latest study states.

Researchers at Cornell University studied statistics from 3,142 American counties from 2005 to 2009. They found that income inequality increases the risk of child abuse.

"Our study is the first to demonstrate that increases in income inequality are associated with increases in child maltreatment," John J. Eckenrode, professor of human development and director of the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research, said in a news release.

The researchers stated that it is a known fact that more equal societies, states and communities have fewer health and social problems. However, in this study the researchers tried to understand more about the outcomes of income inequality. They found that child abuse increases with income inequality.

"Certainly, poor counties with general, overall poverty have significant problems with child abuse," Eckenrode said. He explained that the main focus of the study on the geographic areas with wide variations in income. "Think of counties encompassing affluent suburbs and impoverished inner cities, or think of rich/poor Brooklyn, New York - that's where income inequalities are most pronounced. That's where the kids are really hurting."

Furthermore, the researchers said that child abuse could have a long-term effect right into adulthood. "Child maltreatment is a toxic stressor in the lives of children that may result in childhood mortality and morbidities and have lifelong effects on leading causes of death in adults," researchers wrote. "This is in addition to long-term effects on mental health, substance use, risky sexual behavior and criminal behavior ... increased rates of unemployment, poverty and Medicaid use in adulthood."

 The findings are published in the journal Pediatrics.

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