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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The income gap contributes to child maltreatment

A study published in the current issue of Pediatrics helps to identify that the growing income gap in the world has an impact on child maltreatment. There may be many reasons to be concerned about the increasing concentration of wealth in a small pool of people, but this study concludes that child maltreatment is one of the reasons to be concerned.

The study concludes:

Higher income inequality across US counties was significantly associated with higher county-level rates of child maltreatment. The findings contribute to the growing literature linking greater income inequality to a range of poor health and well-being outcomes in infants and children.

This is a very real issue for larger society that will be expected to pick up the costs of this growing problem through health care, child protection and the criminal justice and mental health systems. Child maltreatment has life long implications.  One of the authors, John J. Eckenrode stated:

"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," they 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." (Science Daily February 12, 2014).

When one links this research with what is known from the Adverse Childhood Experiences research, we can see that there is growing data that child maltreatment creates emotions, physical, social and economic impacts across the lifespan. This is just more data that shows it is a big deal.


J. Eckenrode, E. G. Smith, M. E. McCarthy, M. Dineen. Income Inequality and Child Maltreatment in the United States. PEDIATRICS, 2014; DOI:10.1542/peds.2013-1707


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