University of Toronto Magazine University of Toronto Magazine

Abuse Is Not Just Physical

National study reveals that most child welfare investigations are due to neglect and emotional abuse

Most child welfare investigations in Canada are due to neglect and emotional – not physical – abuse, according to the first national study on the incidence of reported child maltreatment. “While physical safety remains a priority, we must also ensure that child welfare services can deliver long-term child and family support,” says Prof. Nico Trocmé, director of the Centre of Excellence for Child Welfare in the Faculty of Social Work and lead author of the Canadian Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect. Almost 60 per cent of investigations in 1998 primarily involved neglect such as lack of supervision and failure to provide proper nutrition and clothing, or involved emotional maltreatment, such as verbal abuse and exposure to family violence. The research team, including scholars across the country, also found that boys were more likely to be physically abused while girls were more likely to be sexually abused, whereas neglect and emotional maltreatment were evenly distributed. The study was funded by Health Canada, with support from the provincial and territorial governments and the Bell Canada Child Welfare Research Unit at U of T.

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