How common is child abuse in Canada?
Child abuse is a common problem in Canada.
In the past ten years more and more people are reporting when they
think a child is being abused or neglected. Also, police and child
protection agencies are finding more children than ever who need
protecting. Still, it is estimated that less than one in ten
child abuse cases is ever reported to authorities.
It is hard to find reliable Canadian statistics on child abuse. The
National Incidence Study on Child Abuse and Neglect (Health Canada) is
currently underway. It will estimate the nature and extent of child
abuse and neglect that has been reported.
Other groups have done studies over the years. The results from some
of them are below. When viewed together they suggest just how common a
problem child abuse is.
- In 1992, child protection authorities put about 40,000 Canadian
children into foster care or other settings away from their home. In
many of these cases, abuse was a factor.
- In Ontario in 1993, Children’s Aid Society investigated over
13,000 cases of child physical abuse. This is compared to 3,546 ten
- Children 3 years old or younger are most often investigated for
neglect. Children 12 to 15 years old are most often investigated for
Information on abusers
- In a national study, abused women reported that their partners had
also abused their children:
- physically – 26% of the time
- psychologically – 48% of the time
- sexually – 7% of the time
- Another study reported that almost all sexual abusers of both boys
and girls are heterosexual males.
- Children know their abuser in over eight out of ten cases. More
than four out of ten are fathers or father figures.
- More than one in four lesbian, gay and bisexual youth go through
violence at home after they tell their family about their sexuality.
Children with disabilities
- Almost half the time that children with disabilities are abused, it
is by someone they know through having a disability.
- One study found that more than half of boys who are deaf have been
- It is estimated that 5-10% of disabilities result from severe
neglect. Violence is often involved as well.
- Over three in ten children who witness abuse are also physically
- Children witness between 40 - 80% of assaults on their mothers.
No matter how common it is, no child should have to deal with
abuse of any kind.
can I go for help or information?
Child and Family Services Annual Statistical Report 1992-93 to
Jaffe, P., Wolfe, D., & Wilson, S.K. Children of Battered
Women, Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 1990.
MacLeod, L. Battered But Not Beaten: Preventing Wife Battering in
Canada (Ottawa: The Canadian Advisory Counsel on the Status of
Women, 1987), 32.
Make a Difference: How to respond to child witnesses of woman abuse.
Produced by the Children’s Subcommittee of the London Coordinating
Committee to End Woman Abuse (undated)
National Clearinghouse on Family Violence. Child Welfare in
Canada: The Role of Provincial and Territorial Authorities in Cases of
Child Abuse, 1994.
Sobsey, D. (1995) "Violence". Encyclopedia of Disability
and Rehabilitation, MacMillan Publishing, USA.
Sobsey, D., and Doe, T. (1991) "Patterns of Sexual Abuse and
Assault". Journal of Sexuality and Disability, 9, no.3: 243-259.
Sullivan, P.M.; Vernon, M.; and Scanlan, J.M. (1987) "Sexual
Abuse of Deaf Youth". American Annals of the Deaf, 32, no.4:
Tower, C.C. Secret Scars: A Guide for Survivors of Child Abuse. New
York: Viking/Penguin, 1988.
This question was prepared for the Canadian Health Network by Education
Wife Assault and the National
Clearinghouse on Family Violence.