More Statistics on Child Abuse, Or, Why Single Moms Should Probably Stay That Way

(I know, I know–another inflammatory title. But if you’re not feeling a bit inflamed by the end of this post, I don’t know what’s wrong with you.)

Wading through statistics makes me cranky. My inner journalist, latent as she may be, pitches a fit when she hears people making making vague allusions to “research,” or when numbers are spun to crown “heroes” and hang “villains.” Prepping for this message about how cohabitation hurts women and children has practically sent my Lois Lane gene through the roof. Few people are neutral when it comes to child abuse and their living arrangements (happily so), and I am not comfortable using a handful of strategically-chosen, sloppily-cited statistics from organizations that I know have an agenda–even if I happen to agree with their agenda.

So I have been on a little bit of a vendetta to “get the scoop” on how children are impacted by their living situation. And it hasn’t been easy. Privacy laws complicate matters enormously, and many numbers have to be cobbled together from a variety of sources. After the statistic I ran across yesterday about mothers being the most likely physical abuser of their young children, I was downright infuriated. It was a hardcore “Yes, but” sort of statistic. I had to get to the bottom of it.

Finally, FINALLY, I tracked down a page that provided good statistical information, culled from the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System. Now, this page is still tricky to decipher–if you don’t read it closely, you can REALLY get the wrong idea. But what I loved about it is that it provides statistics based on substantiated or indicted child maltreatment cases. Because of that the numbers are going to skew low–a lot of abuse is never reported–but it does show the breakdown of who is being charged with what types of child abuse in the USA.

It is also crucial to understand that these numbers are based on TOTAL CASES, so while it can tell you, say, that more children are abused by their biological mother then are abused by a mother’s unrelated boyfriend (because most children live with their mothers, while relatively few live with a mother’s unrelated boyfriend), you’d have to whip out a calculator to figure out how likely a child living with his or her biological mother and her unrelated boyfriend is to be abused by said boyfriend. (Did that make any sense at all?) This also accounts for why mothers are statistically most likely to be involved child maltreatment.

Here’s the basic breakdown:

-Of all the perpetrators of child maltreatment, 54% were female, and 46% were male.

Abuse by women:

-Among female perpetrators, 86% were the child’s biological mother, 10% were non-parents, and 4% were in some sort of parental role (step-mom, dad’s girlfriend, etc.)

-Among female perpetrators, 66% had been charged with neglect only, 18% had been charged with physical abuse only, 4% had been charged with emotional abuse only, 2% had been charged with sexual abuse only, and 11% had been charged with some combination of the above.

Abuse by men:

-Among male perpetrators, 51% were biological fathers, and 26% were non-parents (12% male relatives, 13% non-relatives, and 1% some ambiguous combination of both). 10% were mother’s boyfriends, 8% were stepfathers, 5% were combination fathers, and 1% were adoptive fathers.

-Among male perpetrators, 36% had been charged with neglect only, 26% had been charged with sexual abuse only, 22% had been charged with physical abuse only, 5% had been charged with emotional abuse only, and 11% had been charged with some combination of the above.

Type of abuse by relationship

Here is where I am going to pick on the men. Because I am speaking specifically about cohabitation this week, and because only about 2% of child abuse cases involve “evil stepmother” sorts, the ladies are off the hook (for now). Step-fathers and adoptive fathers, on the other hand, are not–I couldn’t leave them out in good conscience, after what I read. I am not including statistics about men who are not in parental roles.

PLEASE KEEP IN MIND, again, that these numbers are based on PEOPLE WHO HAVE BEEN CHARGED WITH CHILD ABUSE. So when I say, for instance, that 26% of biological fathers who are perpetrators have been charged with physical abuse, it DOES NOT mean that 26% of men physically abuse their biological children. It means that out of all reported child abuse cases that have been substantiated and/or indicted involving biological fathers, 26% of them were for physical abuse.

Biological fathers who were perpetrators: 50% were charged with neglect only, 26% were charged with physical abuse only, 7% were charged with emotional abuse only, 7% were charged with sexual abuse only, and 11% were charged with some combination of the above.

Mother’s boyfriends who were perpetrators: 31% were charged with neglect only. 30% were charged with physical abuse only. 20% were charged with sexual abuse only. 6% were charged with emotional abuse only. And 13% were charged with some combination of the above.

Stepfathers who were perpetrators: 34% were charged with physical abuse only. 30% were charged with sexual abuse only. 20% were charged with neglect only. 4% were charged with emotional abuse only. And 12% were charged with some combination of the above.

Combination fathers who were perpetrators: 56% were charged with neglect only, 8% were charged with physical abuse only, 7% were charged with sexual abuse only, 3% were charged with emotional abuse only, and 25% were charged with some combination of the above.

Adoptive fathers who were perpetrators: 33% were charged with physical abuse only, 24% were charged with sexual abuse only, 23% were charged with neglect only, 3% were charged with emotional abuse only, and 17% were charged with some combination of the above.

There’s a lot of information to chew on here, but this has already been a stinkin’ long blog post (if you could call it that at all–it’s more like a massive disclaimer and explanation of the statistics I will be using in my message this Sunday), so I’ll end it here. Chew away, and feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments.


33 Responses to More Statistics on Child Abuse, Or, Why Single Moms Should Probably Stay That Way

  1. Tim May 1, 2012 at 2:57 pm #

    Welcome to my courtroom.


  2. Mike October 10, 2013 at 11:14 pm #

    The most relevant statistics are probably these:
    introducing a boyfriend into a single mother’s home can increase a child’s risk of abuse or death.

    A 2011 federal study of child abuse found that the riskiest home situation for children was living with one parent and an unmarried partner: 57.2 per 1,000 were maltreated. That’s more than eight times the risk than if they were living with both biological parents (6.8 per 1,000) and more than double the risk of living in a single-parent household (28.4 per 1,000).

    Read more here:

  3. RWA October 27, 2013 at 6:56 pm #

    Interesting. I crunched your numbers and found that 55% of the abuse was due to the biological mother or her poor choice in boyfriend/step father. Only 26% of the abuse was due to the biological father or his poor mate choice.

    • Evie August 9, 2014 at 9:35 am #

      So when a man abuses a child, you blame a woman?

      • Joe November 5, 2016 at 3:22 am #

        No… not what was said at all. It’s still the duchebag’s fault

      • B D March 17, 2017 at 10:55 pm #

        A single MOTHER is in charge of making sure her child is not at risk so if she makes a bad choice, she has put her child at risk

        • Crystal Achey April 3, 2017 at 9:38 am #

          Yes, people make bad choices in partners… but, often we don’t think they would do the horrible things they end up doing… and we don’t realize how hard it is to protect our children from them, legally.

        • MB October 16, 2017 at 3:28 pm #

          @ BD…I agree with you. There are single fathers who allow their wives to kill/abuse stepchildren (look up the case of AJ Schwarz) but in general, it tends to be an issue where single moms put their kids at risk.
          As a woman, I’ve noticed that a lot of single moms are defensive about this.
          They ask “why are women being blamed?”

          Well, because there are more single moms than single dads.
          Therefore a single mother has a responsibility to protect her kid(s) from harm.
          Part of this (a VERY important part) is being mindful about the company one keeps.
          I’m tired of hearing stories about children being raped/abused/killed by Mom’s boyfriend or husband.
          It can’t happen if the woman is more careful about who she brings into her child’s life.

        • Jessica October 31, 2017 at 1:02 pm #

          Where is the father? Why is it only the mother’s job to make sure her child is not at risk? A child has two parents, not one. If you say it is the mother’s job to do something, it is the father’s job as well. If you say well why didn’t she, then you say well why didn’t he? People need to stop putting everything on mothers and nothing on fathers.

          • Dylan November 25, 2017 at 2:41 am #

            If the mother has custody of the children (which is much more common among women), then it is entirely her job to keep the children safe. For all the legal system cares, the dad can move to china and never talk to the kids again.

          • Sinclair December 16, 2017 at 4:01 pm #

            Because women get custody over 90% of the time! It’s one of the many female privileges! It’s a shame that single women make such horrible parents!

          • May December 23, 2017 at 10:41 am #

            I agree, Jessica. These facts are so misleading. Mom’s are held to a very different standard when it comes to parenthood – and since at least 80% of single parent families are headed by women, do the stats reflect that? That is about 1/4 of all US families. They don’t mention that men only spend about 7 hours a week with their own kids (and that’s 3x more since 1965) and only 9 hours of housework. Even working moms spend at least 2x that amount of time and are working outside the home, too. Do they factor in the fact that somewhere around 1/4 of these families live below the poverty level (there is 116 billion in unpaid child support, which is certainly a piece of this puzzle). Hard not to believe that moms are struggling financially and physically to raise their children. Add to that the fact that there is so much abuse that is never reported, which the courts routinely fail to recognize (estimates are that more than 58,500 children a year are ordered into unsupervised contact with physically or sexually abusive parents following divorce in the United States. (and our solution is to increase exposure by promoting 50/50 shared custody across the board)). Bottom line is that moms/dads are like apples and oranges and we need to make changes in order to stop abuse.

          • MB February 13, 2018 at 6:17 pm #

            It isn’t ONLY the mother’s job…in a perfect world fathers would not leave their children, or die, or anything that results in children being left without a father.

            However, we don’t live in a perfect world. So unfortunately when all of the responsibility falls on a single mom due to the absence of a father, it becomes her job to make sure that no harm comes to her child.
            It’s not a “sexism” issue (although I agree that it is unfair)…it’s about common sense and doing what’s best for kids.

            As the child of a single mother, I wish that my father had stayed around.
            He should have, but he didn’t. That is an unfortunate part of life that happens all too often.
            He didn’t pay child support, either. So I understand what you are saying about how it is unfair to only talk about mothers.

            However, my point still stands…if a child doesn’t have a father in the home, the mother is the one who needs to be smart in her dating habits, her choice of a partner, etc.
            It’s about being aware that there ARE people who WILL mistreat and even hurt your kids.

    • Deb March 28, 2017 at 10:31 pm #

      My grand daughter who is just 4 was molested by her mom boy friend. And she(mom) only knew him 2 weeks b4 she moved the kids in to his house. They liked him in the beginning..that didn’t last. Should have been a red flag! My grand daughter doesn’t even want to be around her mom now…

      People lime that don’t learn! She is still using the boyfriends last name! And the abuse was confirmed! Who does that?

      • MB October 16, 2017 at 3:31 pm #

        @Deb…I’m so sorry. My heart goes out to you. I hope your granddaughter is living in a better, safer place now.
        Sometimes people are selfish and they make decisions that wind up hurting children.
        It sounds like the child’s mother has chosen this man over her daughter. Very sad.

  4. Suret1 July 17, 2015 at 10:09 pm #

    My daughter is in this situation now. 18yr old SM .. Boyfriend has a ltemper”…. Yelled at the baby at 3mos old because he wouldn’t drink his bottle. Who knows what else but I am always looking for signs. I know he treats her badly and somehow she thinks she deserves it but I don’t know go to get it through her head that it is her responsibility to keep that baby safe. I welcome any bmk

    • Suret1 July 17, 2015 at 10:09 pm #

      Sorry… Typo… I welcome any advice

    • B D March 17, 2017 at 11:00 pm #

      If he has a temper over a small thing such as a baby not drinking a bottle,this is not a good sign. That is abuse. It is not the baby’s fault that the bottle may not be wanted- besides, at 3 mos, it would be formula which is proven to NOT be good for babies. Why is a 3 month old baby drinking formula, when the baby should be being breastfed (proven to be healthier for baby.) The Mother is 18 and the father is not around and yet, already, she has a new boyfriend. Sounds like the mother already has made bad choices which means she is putting her child at risk

      • Crystal Achey April 3, 2017 at 9:32 am #

        Yes, it’s better to breastfeed… however, let’s back off a bit on that bottle feeding judgement shall we? I hope you are not one of those right to lifers who then judges every little thing that is not ideal in a child’s upbringing… especially when a child is born to a virtual child with no support or substantial care from the biological father.

      • HC September 15, 2017 at 4:16 pm #

        Because women who have to go back to work never pump and give breastmilk in a bottle right? Also, some children reject breastmilk and have to be given formula…don’t spout off when you have no clue about someone’s situation and just make assumptions.

      • Dylan November 25, 2017 at 2:43 am #

        Formula is not bad for the baby. Nor is breastfeeding better than bottlefeeding.

        • Judy December 13, 2017 at 1:27 pm #

          Hey Dylan.

          I agree we shouldn’t judge other people’s reasonable parenting choices, but scientifically, breastmilk is better for babies and moms than formula.

          Breastfeeding reduces the infant’s likelihood of diabetes by about 40%, and it reduces the mom’s likelihood of ovarian cancer by about 15 to 20% depending on which studies you’re looking at. That is just one of many benefits for each.

          Just wanted to share a bit if you ever decide to have kids. Breastfeeding is pretty awesome :)

          • May December 23, 2017 at 10:52 am #

            Breastfeeding is infinitely better for babies and moms and is a big part of bonding, as well as aiding the babies’ immune system – it also enhances development of the brain, and SID risk is cut by half.

  5. Sil May 15, 2017 at 5:33 am #

    One category of people is completely left off the hook- the absentee parent. All the blame is shifted on the parent with whom the children are and/or his/her partner. If statistics show that children being raised in broken homes are much more likely to suffer abuse, then the parent responsible for ‘breaking’ it should be held responsible as well. You bring a child into this world, you have an obligation to make sure they are well every single day and night. Besides, being raised in a broken home is traumatic to the child by itself so the parental culprit should be held to account. Raising a child is not a job for one person, not even for two. In any child abuse cases involving a parent and/or their partners, where the other parent is willingly absent, the absentee parent should be charged with neglecting the child. What worse neglect is there than abandoning a child?

    • Pogo May 16, 2017 at 6:25 pm #

      It’s a rare case where only one partner is responsible for the relationship breakdown, as for the “absent” parent the majority of the time the “absent” parent has no choice in the matter, the majority of the time custody is awarded to only one parent.

  6. Steve October 13, 2017 at 2:35 am #

    Your maths doesn’t even add up, 100% is the be all and end all. !00% is a whole number.
    So if Abuse by women is 86% were the child’s biological mother how can Abused by men who were the child’s biological father be 51%?
    I may be crap at maths but that number does not equal 100% its 137%

    • Truth October 17, 2017 at 1:36 am #

      the maths are fine. What is being said is out of the Female abusers and who she brings into the childs live even if its the father, boyfriend, grandma, friend, ect. The abuse is 86 percent the actual MOM of the kids. Period.

      Then it gives separate stats for Mans abuse, The father is 51 percent our of his own 100 percent of who he brings into his childs live or allows ect ect.

      • Truth October 17, 2017 at 1:39 am #

        better yet.. I made a mistake its just saying Mothers or Fathers and who they bring into their childs lives. Not Mom and Dad together. Its after separation. Individual stats for both parents.

  7. MB October 16, 2017 at 3:09 pm #

    I had this conversation with my own mother the other day. I am an adult now, but I still remember what it was like growing up with an abusive stepfather.
    We were talking about some people we know…the child’s father died of cancer last year, and my mom said that maybe his girlfriend needs to find a new man.

    I strongly disagreed with that. I’m not saying that single moms don’t deserve to find love and happiness.
    If they happen to meet a good guy who is kind to them and their children, wonderful. But there are FAR too many cases where people don’t consider the needs of their kids before bringing new partners into the picture.
    And then you’ll hear all of these stories about how a child was mistreated or murdered by Mom or Dad’s boyfriend/girlfriend/husband/wife.

    These things can be avoided by making smarter choices instead of jumping into relationships without taking time to see how the person interacts with your kids. I’ve told a few single moms before…not everyone will love your kids the way you do. It’s so important to raise them in a healthy environment and sometimes that means putting their needs first. Not bringing anyone into their lives who will hurt them, just so you can say you have a man or woman in your life.
    Maybe I’m biased because of my own painful experiences growing up, but I think it is generally a very bad idea to date as a single parent unless the person is kind to your kid(s). With my stepfather there were a LOT of red flags but my mom was so desperate to have a man that she ignored the abuse.

  8. Steve N December 7, 2017 at 9:19 pm #

    I would like to ask for some advice. My exwife and I were separated in January 2017 and divorced in July 2017. I live in China and my ex lives in USA. Ex had a boyfriend by May 2017 and my two daughters (7 and 9) basically spent the summer in his care. Ex has a 9-5 job and he is a handyman at an apartment complex.

    At first, I heard nothing but good things from my daughters and I asked every way I could about how he was treating them. Nothing but glowing reports – they seemed to love the guy. I was actually jealous.

    For about a month now, I noticed them suddenly stopped talking about him and I thought maybe mom and him broke up. So I asked again, how is mom’s BF treating you. My older daughter said good in a less than enthusiastic manner and my younger daughter flat said she doesn’t really like him anymore.

    Should I be concerned?
    How do I ask them how he is treating them without it being seen as harassment or being accused of asking the same type of question until I get the answer I want?
    What are my bounds here? If I start asking questions that are none of my business then that could also be misconstrued. Plus I don’t want to stress my daughters out.

    My parenting time is basically two one hour Facetime chats per week and texting.

    I did a background check on the guy – he is 48 and only has one prior DUI. (My younger daughter told me he does like to drink.) No record of violence or sexual assault.

    Not really sure what to do or what to think but I’m feeling uneasy.

    • Van February 17, 2018 at 12:34 am #

      I’m sorry to hear about your situation. Sounds like some serious red flags. Can you come to the US for a visit to spend more time with your daughters? They will probably open up more. Also I would raise concerns with their mother and maybe even some of the other people that care for her (grandparents, teachers, etc). You have every right and responsibility to raise your concerns and it isn’t harassment to be clear that your daughters seem to mistrust this man and you are worried. Talking with your ex may help her notice things or encourage a talk with your daughters about it, even if your conversation gets ugly. Steer it back to your concern for the girls. Good luck.

  9. Christine February 14, 2018 at 12:48 pm #

    Id say you decrease your risk quite a bit by not choosing a total asshole? Like seriously… Choose a good partner and this most likely wont be a problem, most single moms have been in bad relationships before that didnt work out and should therefore know the signs of a bad partner (unless they never learn) and have the ability to choose a better one next time. I think a lot of this statistics is due to single moms being WAY more common than single dads, and single moms live in poverty a lot (and might be less picky of a partner, just chooses one to provide?).

    I find the idea that women who got left by their partners, had their partners die, made once mistake once in their life (leading to getting pregnant by the wrong man) should never feel joy or happiness again and should constantly be judged by society, should never be allowed to have a parter again, while the dad gets off scot free to be quite repulsive. Of course a single mom shouldnt have to stay single forever wtf…

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