Child Maltreatment

Child Maltreatment

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month

Each year, Prevent Child Abuse Utah holds a Pinwheels for Prevention campaign to raise awareness of child abuse and how you can prevent it. The blue pinwheel represents the innocence of childhood and the bright, happy future every child deserves. Join the campaign at preventchildabuseutahDOTorg.

You can also learn more about National Child Abuse Prevention Month and how to build protective factors in your families and communities that prevent abuse at childwelfareDOTgov.

Utah Child Abuse/Neglect Hotline

Safe, stable, and nurturing relationships and environments are essential to prevent child maltreatment and to assure children reach their full potential.

According to the CDC, child maltreatment is "any act or series of acts of commission or omission by a parent or other caregiver (e.g., clergy, coach, teacher, etc.) that results in harm, potential for harm, or threat of harm to a child (1)."

There are four major types of child maltreatment or abuse: physical abuse, child neglect, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse (2).

  • According to the Utah Child Fatality Review Committee, in 2012, 12 children died from child abuse or neglect-related causes (3).
  • Homicide was the fifth leading cause of death for children ages 1 to 14 in 2010 (4).
  • Utah was the first state to enact legislation classifying domestic violence in the presence of a child or children as a crime of child abuse (5).
  • From 2003-2008, 147 Utah children were directly exposed to an intimate partner-related homicide and 78% of these children were under six years of age (6).
  • Homicide was the second leading cause of injury death for children under one year of age (6).
  • According to Kids Count, in 2011, Utah ranked 10th in the number of children confirmed by Child Protective Services as being victims of child maltreatment (7).
  • In 2012, sexual abuse was the most common type of substantiated child maltreatment in Utah (8).
  • Nationally, the total lifetime estimated financial costs associated with child maltreatment are approximately $124 billion. Each death due to child maltreatment had a lifetime cost of about $1.3 million and the lifetime cost for each victim of child maltreatment who lived was $210,012, which is comparable to other costly health conditions such as stroke or type 2 diabetes (9).

Effects of Child Maltreatment

The effects of child maltreatment vary depending on the circumstances, characteristics, and environment of the child. Negative health outcomes for adults exposed to adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) as children are much higher than those not exposed to ACEs. ACEs are events in childhood that can be considered stressful or traumatic and include physical, verbal, or sexual abuse, as well as family dysfunction (such as an incarcerated, mentally ill, or substance abusing family member; domestic violence; or absence of a parent because of divorce or separation).

More than half (63.1%) of Utah adults reported that they had experienced an adverse childhood experience.


In Utah, ACE questions were included in the 2013 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) and were linked to adverse health outcomes such as smoking, fair or poor health, obesity, and mental or emotional problems. More than half (63.1%) of Utah adults reported experiencing ACEs. Verbal abuse was the most common ACE reported in Utah. Females were significantly more likely to report living with a mentally ill adult and experiencing sexual abuse compared to males (10).


Direct ACEs include exposure to physical, sexual, or verbal abuse while environmental ACEs include exposure to mental illness, substance abuse, divorce, incarceration, or witnessing abuse. In Utah, 14.8% of Utah adults reported suffering from direct ACEs, 19.2% reported exposure to enviornmental ACEs only, and 29.1% reported both direct and environmental ACEs exposure. Children exposed to environmental ACES only were more at risk for substance abuse (smoking and binge drinking) compared to those explosed to direct ACEs only (10). Direct ACEs were not associated with adults' use of tobacco or alcohol, but were associated with fair or poor health, depression, and obesity. Environmental ACEs were associated with adults' use of tobacco, binge drinking, fair or poor health, and depression.


National studies also show ACEs can have negative outcomes such as:

  • Increased risk for victimization or perpetration of intimate partner violence as adults (11).
  • More likely to suffer from psychological consequences such as cognitive difficulties like poor academic performance, poor language development and low classroom functioning; and antisocial traits, borderline personality disorders, and violent behavior (12).

  • Increased risk of alcohol and drug abuse (13).


  1. Child Maltreatment: Definitions
  2. Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act. U.S. Code 42 USC 5101 et seq; 42 USC 5116 et seq.
  3. Utah Child Fatality Review Committee
  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, WISQARS module.
  5. Whitcomb, D, Children and Domestic Violence: The Prosecutor’s Response
  6. Domestic Violence Fatalities in Utah, 2003-2008
  8. Utah Division of Child and Family Services, Annual Report 2012
  9. The Economic Burden of Child Maltreatment in the United States and Implications for Prevention
  10. Utah Health Status Update, Effects of Adverse Childhood Experiences, Utah Department of Health. July, 2015
  11. 11. Tjaden P, Thoennes N. Extent, Nature, and Consequences of Intimate Partner Violence: Findings from the National Violence Against Women Survey, National Institute of Justice; 1998.
  12. Zolotor, A., Kotch, J., Dufort, V., Winsor, J., Catellier, D., & Bou-Saada I. (1999). School performance in a longitudinal cohort of children at risk of maltreatment. Maternal and Child Health Journal, 3(1), 19-27. English, D. J., Widom, C. S., & Brandford, C. (2004). Another look at the effects of child abuse. NIJ journal, 251, 23-24.
  13. Swan, N. (1998). Exploring the role of child abuse on later drug abuse: Researchers face broad gaps in information. NIDA Notes, 13(2). Retrieved April 27, 2006, from URL: