Focus Areas

Child Abuse

Child abuse is any act or series of acts of commission or omission by a parent or other caregiver (e.g., clergy, coach, teacher) that results in harm, potential for harm, or threat of harm to a child.

Definition of Child Abuse

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention outline two categories of abuse:


Words or overt actions that cause harm, potential harm, or threat of harm to a child. Acts of commission are deliberate and intentional; however, harm to a child may or may not be the intended consequence. Intentionality only applies to the caregivers’ acts-not the consequences of those acts. For example, a caregiver may intend to hit a child as punishment (i.e., hitting the child is not accidental or unintentional) but not intend to cause the child to have a concussion. The following types of maltreatment involve acts of commission:

  • Physical abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Psychological abuse.


The failure to provide for a child’s basic physical, emotional, or educational needs or to protect a child from harm or potential harm. Like acts of commission, harm to a child may or may not be the intended consequence. The following types of maltreatment involve acts of omission:

  • Failure to provide
    • Physical neglect
    • Emotional neglect
    • Medical/dental neglect
    • Educational neglect
  • Failure to supervise
    • Inadequate supervision
    • Exposure to violent environments.

The Toll of Abuse on Our Children

According to the CDC, in 2012, U.S. state and local child protective services (CPS) received an estimated 3.4 million referrals of children being abused or neglected:

  • CPS estimated that 686,000 children (9.2 per 1,000) were victims of maltreatment.
  • Of the child victims, 78 percent were victims of neglect; 18 percent of physical abuse; 9 percent of sexual abuse; and 11 percent were victims of other types of maltreatment, including emotional and threatened abuse, parent’s drug/alcohol abuse, or lack of supervision.
  • CPS reports of child maltreatment may underestimate the true occurrence. A non-CPS study estimated that 1 in 4 U.S. children experience some form of child maltreatment in their lifetimes.
  • The total lifetime economic burden resulting from new cases of fatal and nonfatal child maltreatment in the United States is approximately $124 billion.

What We Can Do

If a child is in urgent need of assistance, contact law enforcement or child protective services; for more information about child abuse, contact the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453).

All Kids Deserve Safe, Supportive Environments

PTA believes all children need and deserve safe, supportive environments. For more information on our stance against abuse, please review our resolutions.