Why Have Child Maltreatment and Child Victimization Declined?

Authors


*Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to David Finkelhor, Crimes against Children Research Center, University of New Hampshire, 126 Horton Social Science Center, Durham, NH 03824 [e-mail: david.finkelhor@unh.edu].

Abstract

Various forms of child maltreatment and child victimization declined as much as 40–70% from 1993 until 2004, including sexual abuse, physical abuse, sexual assault, homicide, aggravated assault, robbery, and larceny. Other child welfare indicators also improved during the same period, including teen pregnancy, teen suicide, and children living in poverty. This article reviews a wide variety of possible explanations for these changes: demography, fertility and abortion legalization, economic prosperity, increased incarceration of offenders, increased agents of social intervention, changing social norms and practices, the dissipation of the social changes from the 1960s, and psychiatric pharmacology. Multiple factors probably contributed. In particular, economic prosperity, increasing agents of social intervention, and psychiatric pharmacology have advantages over some of the other explanations in accounting for the breadth and timing of the improvements.

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