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March 2010Vol. 11, No. 2Fourth National Incidence Study Shows Declines in Child Abuse

The ACF Office of Planning, Research & Evaluation (OPRE) recently released the Fourth National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect. The NIS-4 includes national data on child maltreatment from 2005 and 2006. Compared to NIS-3 data, results show decreases in all categories of child abuse, including physical and sexual abuse. An increase was found in emotional neglect, however, which may be partially related to agencies' increased focus on domestic violence and substance abuse, which are involved in certain types of emotional neglect.

In collecting national statistics on child maltreatment, NIS includes not only children whose victimization was substantiated by child protective services (CPS) workers, but also children whose victimization was not reported to CPS or was not substantiated by CPS but was recognized by community professionals ("sentinels").The goal is to estimate more broadly the incidence of child maltreatment in the United States, as well as to collect demographic information on children and their families.

NIS studies are conducted approximately every decade in fulfillment of requirements in the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act.

The full report to Congress, as well as a number of supplementary studies and related technical reports, are available on the OPRE website: