Child Abuse

Perhaps one of the most disturbing and terrifying aspects of Covid-19.

Perhaps one of the most disturbing and terrifying aspects of Covid-19 is the increase in child abuse since the beginning of the pandemic. Child abuse is a huge catalyst for declines in childrens’ mental health.32 According to a level I pediatric trauma center in Maryland, there was an increase in the amount of traumatic injuries from physical child abuse at their center during the pandemic.6 Furthermore, child protective services was already underfunded before the pandemic, and its implications for child abuse expose this quite serious and widespread issue as well.

One reason for increased family violence may be the pandemic-related decrease in access to and interaction with childcare and pediatric services, places where abuse is typically reported. Research shows that quarantines and social isolation have been linked to increases in child maltreatment and family violence.7 Evidence also suggests that violence against children increases with school closures and in the summer season when schools are normally not in session,8 something that could be disastrous during a pandemic, when school closures are virtually inevitable.

Covid-19 has led to millions of pay cuts and thousands of jobs lost; economic concerns can lead to stress and conflict, potentially increasing child neglect and abuse. Indeed, studies have shown that there were significant increases in physical child abuse during the 2008 recession.9

Along these lines, another study found increased rates of child abuse, neglect, and exploitation associated with financial recessions, natural disasters, and disease, such as the Ebola outbreak, in West Africa from 2014-2016.5 In addition, quarantine and social isolation can lead to increased exposure to abusers and a lower possibility of escape. Covid-19, by forcing families to remain within the confines of their homes, has led to many more children experiencing the stress, violence, and frustration of their families, and the following disintegration of their mental health.