Survey evidence of the decline in child abuse in younger Canadian cohorts
Physical and sexual abuse in childhood is a worldwide phenomenon with potentially dramatic consequences of both a psychological and physical nature. Measures of primary prevention have been developed in some countries. In the USA, child protection services reports and research surveys indicate that child sexual abuse has been on the decline in recent decades. Results are less clear for physical and overall abuse. The aim of this study was to describe how childhood abuse has changed over the years in Canada through an analysis of the 2012 Canadian Community Health Survey: Mental Health Edition data. The sample comprised 22,775 respondents ages 20 and over who completed a child abuse questionnaire. Respondents born from 1983 to 1992 reported significantly less overall abuse, physical abuse, and sexual abuse than did older generations, with the exception of people born in 1942 or earlier. The decrease was observed among men and women and across all the regions of Canada.
What is Known:
• Physical and sexual abuse in childhood has been associated with lower life expectancy in connection with an array of chronic diseases, including mental disorders, and with suicide.
• Measures of primary prevention have been developed in some countries, such as the USA and Canada.
What is New:
• Canadians born from 1983 to 1992 report significantly less overall abuse, physical abuse, and sexual abuse than older generations do.
• These encouraging results support policies implemented in the 1990s focused on improving the childhood environment.
KeywordsChild abuse Epidemiology Primary prevention Social policies
Canadian Community Health Survey-Mental Health
Childhood Experiences of Violence Questionnaire
Canadian Incidence Study
Gender, Alcohol, and Culture International Study
Intimate partner violence
National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence
National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System
Québec Incidence Study
FL has participated in the concept and design, interpretation of data, and drafting and revision of the manuscript. CEG has participated in the concept and design, analysis and interpretation of data, and revision of the manuscript. MS has participated in the revision of the manuscript. AL has participated in the concept and design, interpretation of data, and revision of the manuscript.
All authors are responsible for reported research, they have approved the manuscript as submitted, and they have no conflict of interest.
Dr. Ligier was a post-doctoral fellow at the Québec Suicide Research Network, funded by the Québec Health and Social Research Funds.
Compliance with ethical standards
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
This article is not based on any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.
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