How prevalent is child maltreatment?

Content warning: child maltreatment and sexual assault statistics.

If you work with children, chances are you’ll meet kids who have experienced maltreatment. Child maltreatment includes abuse — physical, sexual, and emotional — and neglect. All 50 states have laws that protect children against maltreatment.

Although all states have their own specific laws about what constitutes maltreatment, the definition in federal law is:

Any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation; or an act or failure to act, which presents an imminent risk of serious harm.

One way reachers study areas like child maltreatment is by putting numbers to the size of the problem. We call this the prevalence. Prevalence is often described in two different ways: yearly prevalence and lifetime prevalence. Yearly prevalence is straight forward: this is roughly the amount of children who experience maltreatment in any given year. Lifetime prevalence is the number of children who experience maltreatment at any time in their lives. For children, this usually means from birth to 18 years old.

How prevalent is child maltreatment?

You’re who? The school psychologist.

School psychology is a broad field. Its researchers and practitioners have a wide range of training and expertise. This can make it hard to explain exactly who school psychologists are, but it’s also one of the field’s greatest strengths.

A quick google search will tell you a lot about who school psychologists are not. We’re not guidance counselors, adjustment counselors, social workers, or psychiatrists (MDs) — although we may work with each of these professionals. Sometimes we’re both school psychologists and licensed health service provider psychologists. Some school psychologists hold specialist degrees (MEd/CAGS or EdS) and some hold doctorates (PhD or PsyD). Sometimes school psychologists are also behavior analysts (BCBAs). Some states have separate licensure for educational psychologists. Confused yet? You’re not alone.

You’re who? The school psychologist.