U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:

Characteristics of Perpetrators

Most States define perpetrators of child abuse and neglect as parents and other caretakers (such as relatives, babysitters, and foster parents) who have harmed a child in their care. It is important to note that States define the term “caretaker” differently. Harm caused to a child by others (such as acquaintances or strangers) may not be considered child abuse but rather may be considered a criminal matter. [So, in order to get a fuller picture, one would need to add up the two type of stats – has anyone done that? I wonder if that changes the gender proportion of perpetrators]

According to the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System’s most current report, Child Maltreatment 2004, of the approximately 872,000 child abuse and neglect victims in 2004, the largest percentage of perpetrators (78.5 percent) were parents. Other relatives accounted for an additional 6.5 percent, residential facility staff for 0.2 percent, and childcare providers for 0.7 percent. Unmarried partners of parents accounted for 4.1 percent of perpetrators, while legal guardians accounted for 0.2 percent and foster parents accounted for 0.4 percent.

In 2004, 57.8 percent of child abuse and neglect perpetrators were females and 42.2 percent were males. For the most part, female perpetrators were younger than male perpetrators; of the women who were perpetrators, 44.4 percent of females were younger than 30 years of age, compared to 34.1 percent of males.

More than one-half (57.9%) of all perpetrators were found to have neglected one or more children in 2004. Slightly more than 10 percent (10.3%) of perpetrators physically abused children, and 6.9 percent sexually abused children. Fifteen percent (15.5%) of all perpetrators were associated with more than one type of maltreatment.

There were variations in these overall patterns when the relationship of perpetrator to the child victim was considered. Of the parents who maltreated children in 2004, 2.6 percent committed sexual abuse, while 62.9 percent committed neglect. Of the perpetrators who were friends or neighbors, nearly three-quarters committed sexual abuse while 9.9 percent committed neglect.

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