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Economic Costs of Child Abuse

It is often said that the laughter of a child is one of the purest things you can hear. But how would a person feel when that same child’s voice is stifled and their potential is squandered? A child who goes through abuse doesn’t just suffer emotionally, they also suffer economically. This in turn creates a ripple effect that this article hopes to examine.

First of all, we need to establish what ‘child abuse’ actually means. Child abuse has 4 forms: sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse or neglect. An estimated of 3.3 million children suffered some form of abuse in the fiscal year 2008 in the United States alone. Additionally, the same study also concluded that 10.2% of the children in the country suffered some form of abuse. These numbers seem to only be increasing with as many as 25% suffering abuse in 2015. This is a grave social problem because it results in the psychological development of the affected children being severely hindered. This poses a grave threat to our society as a whole because the future of our children and by extension, us, is in danger. (Finkelhor, Turner, Ormrod, & Hamby, 2009).

Since we’ve considered how dangerous child abuse is to the society, we also need to consider its effects on our economic well-being. Child abuse cost the United States about $124 billion in 2010 alone. To further worsen the matters, it’s predicted the costs could reach as high as $2 trillion to the United States alone. This number doesn’t consider how bad it could potentially be for countries which don’t document such data. The economic costs of child abuse are divided into 2 parts: fatal and non-fatal. Non-fatal abuse cost the United States economy $210,012 per victim throughout their lifetime and fatal abuse clocked about $1.3 million, a stunningly high cost. To further worsen the matters, those are not the only costs that a country needs to bear. The non-fatal and fatal costs fall under the umbrella of something called the direct cost of abuse. These numbers just cover the costs needed on hospital visits and the subsequent therapy sessions that follow. The more dire numbers are the indirect costs an economy must bear due a loss in productivity the victims suffer. The trauma is so great, that they are rendered incapacitated mentally and also physically. (Xiangming Fang, Derek S. Brown, Curtis S. Florence, James A. Mercy, 2012)

So what exactly do the direct costs cover? As mentioned earlier, they are the immediate and subsequent bills that must be paid by the victims and their families.

  • The costs it take to provide psychological treatments for each form of abuse are as follows :

  1. Physical Abuse - $323,000

  2. Emotional Abuse - $148,500

  3. Sexual Abuse - $135,300

  4. Emotional Neglect - $193,400

  5. Educational Neglect - $360,500

  • These numbers are from a study done in 2012, and the total cost to the United States economy due to direct medical costs was a whopping $1,153,978,175.

  • A huge cost was also incurred by the child welfare system. This amount totalled to about $29,237,770,193. This resulted in the total direct cost being $33,333,619,509.64

  • Lastly, the services of police officers were also required in order to ensure the safety of the victims. This further resulted in a setback of $34,279,048. This resulted in the total direct cost being $33,333,619,509.64

The indirect costs of abuse are an even more worrisome. These costs cover the losses due to potential loss in productivity and costs associated with various psychological issues such as depression, anxiety etc. that victims of abuse may suffer from.

1 in 5 children who are abused require special education in order to get them up to speed with peers of their age. To ensure this education, $826,174,734 was spent.

Abused children are also more likely to suffer from homelessness with about 27.8% of those abused as children more likely to be homeless. Hence housing needs to be provided for them in the future. This cost the United States about $1,606,866,538.

Juvenile delinquency is a major problem that plagues child abuse survivors. According to studies, about 1 in 4 in survivors are likely to engage in acts delinquency. The total costs of incarceration, arrest and adjudication is about $3,416,149,283.

The loss in worker productivity is perhaps the most major factor affecting a country’s economy. The developmental consequences of childhood abuse result in the workers being very unequipped to handle the pressures of a professional life. This results in the total cost to the United States economy to be $46,926,791,578. The total indirect cost suffered by the economy to be about $80,260,411,087. (Gelles, Richard J., & Perlman, Staci (2012). Estimated Annual Cost of Child Abuse and Neglect.)

Child abuse is a serious disease plaguing the world right now. Not only does it hinder the development of our children, it also hinders the development of an economy. Studies have shown that abuse victims are also more likely to suffer from serious problems like cancer. Child abuse, if left untreated, has the potential to eat a nation from within. It is paramount that governments deal with this promptly in order to secure a better future for the people of a country.




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