A recent review found that child maltreatment
continues to exist consistently in the six developed countries: the USA, England, New Zealand,
Western Australia (Australia), Manitoba (Canada) and Sweden. Despite several policy
initiatives for child protection, there appears to be no decline in child
Modern child protection systems took birth
in the 1970s. Several policy changes were enacted since then with the aim of
bringing down child maltreatment rates. A recent study of trends in six
developed countries revealed disappointing results. Child maltreatment appears
to be immune to all the measures taken so far.
of maltreatment-related injuries and violent deaths remained stable in most of
these countries after the mid-nineties.
Falling rates of
violent death were noted in a few age and country groups. However, Sweden and
Manitoba (Canada) were the only nations were these declines coincided with
reductions in hospital admissions for maltreatment-related injury. Officially-recognized neglect or
physical abuse primarily remained stable in the six countries.
In the USA violent deaths were
five times higher than in Sweden or Australia, which had the lowest rates.
Child protection investigations were significantly more prevalent in the USA and New Zealand compared
with Western Australia. Parental risk factors, lower rates of child poverty,
and policies providing greater levels of universal support for parenting in
Sweden are responsible for the lower levels of maltreatment indices in Sweden
than in the USA.
Rates for placement of children in out-of-home care increased in three
of the six countries. These increases were highest for infants. Placement in out-of-home care was ten fold higher in Manitoba than in
other counties. The study found robust evidence of increases in rates of
infants placed outside of their homes in Western Australia, the USA, and
There has been no overall decrease in child maltreatment despite
decades of policy changes. Interventions seem to be failing to fulfil our hopes
of impacting the desired reduction in child maltreatment rates. The current
results could also be interpreted as the availability of improved recognition
Policies appear to be effective in protection of some vulnerable
groups of children, while failing to reach others. Out-of-home care appears to
be on the increasing side of the curve.
of the report published in The Lancet,
for steps to improve the availability and quality of routine data for
indicators of child maltreatment.
maltreatment: variation in trends and policies in six developed countries; The
Lancet, Early Online Publication, 9 December 2011