Clarke-Stewart, Friedman and Koch (1985) have noted that:
Each day in this country, parents are responsible for the deaths of one or two children. The number of children under 5 killed each year by their own parents may be greater than the number of those who die from disease. An estimated 500,000 children are beatened, burned, thrown, kicked, and battered without losing their lives. (p.252)
One important research question regarding childhood maltreatment has been whether or not it is increasing. Gelles and Straus (1987), in a comparison of studies of violence toward children conducted in both 1975 and 1985, found that statistics, covering a total sample size of 2,574 families, evidenced an extremely high rate of severe violence. However, the rate of severe violence was actually lower in 1985 than in 1975. Gelles and Straus provided several reasons for the findings. These included the possibilities of: (1) increased reluctance to report; (2) differences in methodologies; (3) ten years of effective treatment and prevention programs; and (4) the effects of changes in American society and family patterns producing lower rates of violence toward children even without ameliorative programs.
In terms of childhood maltreatment in relation to race and class differences, Hampton (1987) analyzed statistical data from a national study of child abuse and neglect. The analyzed data included 4,170 cases of abuse of which 77 percent involved White families, 15.8 percent involved Black families, and 4.2 percent involved Hispanic families. While the frequency and severity of abuse did not differ as a result of race and class, the type of abuse typically engaged in did differ.
In another demographic study of child abuse, Farber (1984) compared the circumstances of abuse for both male (N=81) and female (N=81) populations. Sex of the child was found to be unrelated to the relationship of the victim to the abuser, to whom referred the ...