The Bureau of Reproductive & Child Health, Child Maltreatment Division, Health Canada, reports that the Child Maltreatment Division is working towards providing the results of the Canadian Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect (CIS), as soon as possible:
The data collection and preliminary analysis phase will be completed by the 31st of March, 2000.
The results of the data collection and analysis will be captured in a series of documents which are to be prepared during the spring of 2000.
The reporting phase is planned for late spring or early summer when the results of the preliminary analysis will be released.
a) The Ontario Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect, published in 1994.
Boys were most strongly over-represented in the area of physical abuse, especially in the 0- to 3-year-old category where boys accounted for 59 percent of investigations. Male children aged 4 to 11 years accounted for 55.5 per cent.
Relationship to alleged perpetrator:
All maltreatment, investigated cases: mother: 48%, father 32%, stepfather 11%;
substantiated cases: mother 49%; father 31%, stepfather: 13%
Physical abuse: investigated cases: mother 44%; father 41%; stepfather 13%;
substantiated cases: mother 39%; father 40%; stepfather 17%
"Most cases of substantiated physical abuse (mother 39%; father 40%; stepfather 17%) were single incidents (57 percent); ... 39 percent of substantiated neglect cases (mother 85%, father 26%, stepfather 8%) ... cases of substantiated emotional maltreatment (mother 79%, father 55%, stepfather 20%) were almost exclusively limited to long-term situations ..."
Chapter 4: Characteristics of maltreatment, p. 70: Punishment/Discipline: "Punishment or discipline related issues were involved in ... 85% of substantiated physical abuse cases. Thirty-one percent of emotional maltreatment cases also had problems relating to discipline or punishment".
Sexual abuse: investigated cases: parent 4,953 (43.8%); biological mother 312 (2.8%); biological father 2,737 (24.2%); stepfather 1321 (11.7%); stepmother 70 (0.6). Altogether all accused males comprised 90% of total investigations.
Substantiated cases: parent: 24%; biological father: 19%; biological mother 14%; Stepfather 35%; stepmother 0%; total substantiation rate: 28%.
Percentages do not add up as there can be more than one perpetrator per case and for the sake of brevity I have included only parents and stepparents, though the complete tables include all perpetrators of child abuse. Considering the relatively small number of sexual assaults by either parent, the figures in percentages can be unreasonably alarming. It would have been more realistic to give the breakdown in actual numbers, especially considering the fact that this is the only category in which non-parents are the main perpetrators of abuse.
a) See the OIS report above
b) Executive Summary of the Third National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect. (September 1996).
Boys were at somewhat greater risk of serious injury (24% higher than girls' risk under both definitional standards), and boys were significantly more likely to be emotionally neglected (boys' risk was 18% greater than girls'). ...Children were somewhat more likely to be maltreated by female perpetrators than by males: 65 percent of the maltreated children had been maltreated by a female, whereas 54 percent had been maltreated by a male. Of children who were maltreated by their birth parents, the majority (75%) were maltreated by their mothers and a sizeable minority (46%) were maltreated by their fathers (some children were maltreated by both parents). Children who had been physically abused by their birth parents were more likely to have suffered at the hands of their mothers than their fathers (60% versus 48%), while those who had been physically abused by other parents or parent- substitutes were much more likely to have been abused by their fathers or father-substitutes (90% by their substitute fathers versus 19% by their substitute mothers).
This finding correlates other similar findings which show that biological fathers are less likely than father substitutes or other males to be the perpetrators of any kind of child abuse.
c) Child Abuse and Neglect National Statistics (U.S.) This fact sheet presents highlights from the Federal publication Child Maltreatment 1998. The highlights are based on responses from the States to the 1998 National Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting System (NCANDS). Data were collected in aggregate through the Summary Data Component Survey or at the case level through the Detailed Case Data Component of NCANDS.
Instances of possible child maltreatment are referred to local child protective services (CPS) agencies. The agencies "screen out" or "screen in" referrals for investigation or assessment. Agencies also decide whether to take further actions on behalf of protecting a child.
Of the estimated 2,806,000 referrals received, approximately one-third (34%) were screened out and two-thirds (66%) were transferred for investigation or assessment.
Slightly fewer than one-third of investigations (29.2%) resulted in a disposition of either substantiated or indicated child maltreatment. More than half (57.2%) resulted in a finding that child maltreatment was not substantiated. More than a tenth (13.6%) received another disposition.
There were an estimated 903,000 victims of maltreatment nationwide. The 1998 rate of victimization was 12.9 per 1,000 children, a decrease from the 1997 rate of 13.9 per 1,000.
More than half of all victims (53.5%) suffered neglect, while almost a quarter (22.7%) suffered physical abuse. Nearly 12 percent of the victims (11.5%) were sexually abused. Victims of psychological abuse and medical neglect accounted for 6 percent or fewer each. In addition, a quarter of victims (25.3%) were reported to be victims of more than one type of maltreatment.
The highest victimization rates were for the 0-3 age group (14.8 maltreatments per 1,000 children of this age in the population), and rates declined as age increased.
A perpetrator of child abuse and/or neglect is a person who has maltreated a child while in a care taking relationship to the child.
Three-fifths (60.4%) of perpetrators were female. Female perpetrators were typically younger than their male counterparts, as reflected by the difference in their respective median ages, 31 and 34.
More than four-fifths (87.1%) of all victims were maltreated by one or both parents. The most common pattern of maltreatment was a child neglected by a female parent with no other perpetrators identified (44.7%).
Victims of physical and sexual abuse, compared to victims of neglect and medical neglect, were more likely to be maltreated by a male parent* acting alone. In cases of sexual abuse, more than half of victims (55.9%) were abused by male parents*, male relatives, or other males.
* includes both biological and step and/or adoptive parents, and may include mother’s boyfriend(s) or partner(s).
d) A study by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children revealed a few years ago that natural mothers, not fathers, are most frequently the perpetrators of physical injury, emotional abuse and neglect.
According to Madame Justice Mary-Lou Benotto, false allegations during divorce and custody proceedings have become the “weapon of choice” :
“Family law litigation has now embraced and enhanced these innovations which develop their own character borne of the uniqueness of the domestic relationship. In my opinion, the worst results are found in four areas:
1. abuse allegations
2. the ugly affidavit
3. the winner-loser syndrome in custody cases
4. the use of delay for strategic advantage
The nature of a family law case is that the interim motion is often the most important single event in the proceeding. In the last five years, the number of motions in family law has increased by 150 percent. (Ministry of the Attorney General) Evidence is presented by affidavit. Human nature is such that it is far easier to lie on paper than in the witness box. As stated in the Ontario Civil Justice Review, First Report, (p. 272) the single greatest complaint about lawyers by members of the public was with respect to the damage to family relationships caused by the allegations in these affidavits - where, it is widely acknowledged, perjury is rampant and, moreover, goes unpunished. ”[Ethics in Family Law: Is Family Law Advocacy a Contradiction in Terms? Presented to the Advocates' Society Conference in Nassau, Bahamas 2 December 1995 by Mary Lou Benotto]
a) Alberta Family and Social Service Office for the Prevention of Family Violence Statistical summary provincial total - shelter & satellite 01/01/1997 to 31/12/1997 (print date: 13/03/1998). Abused by mother: 300 (4.8%), by father 226 (3.7%).
b) BBC Panorama (10 pm Monday 6th, October 1997) Child Sexual Abuse by Women. Researchers are now asking about child sexual abuse by women, now estimated at 250,000 children, or 35% or more of all reported child sexual abuse. This compares with the more openly admitted and traditional non-sexual abuse/neglect of children by women where the incidence rate is about 60%.
c) Daly, M. and Wilson, M. (1987) Risk of Maltreatment of Children Living With Stepparents, in Richard J. Gelles and Jane B. Lancaster, Child Abuse and Neglect: Biosocial Dimensions (New York: Aldine de Gruyter, 1987), pp. 215-232. Preschoolers in Hamilton, Ontario, living with one biological and one stepparent in 1983 were 40 times more likely to be victims of child abuse as like-aged children living with two biological parents. Children two years and younger are seventy to a hundred times more likely to be killed at the hands of stepparents than at the hands of biological parents.
d) Health and Welfare Canada (1986) In a study by Bell: The perpetrator of child abuse was the mother in 38.7%, the father in 18.4% of cases.
e) Health Canada, National Clearinghouse on Family Violence (March 1996) The Invisible Boy: “There is a 59% to 80% rate of sexual abuse by females in the backgrounds of rapists, sex offenders, and sexually aggressive men.”
f) North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services. Division of Social Services. Central Registry Reports of Child Abuse, Neglect, & Dependency (1997/98) Selected Statistical Data. FY 97/98: 61,298 reports consisting of 114,152 children. -- Unsubstantiated reports: 41,988 (68.50%), consisting of 79,393 (69.55%) children. --Substantiated reports: 19,310 (31.50%) reports of 34,759 (30.45%) children. --Number of children reported: 96,697 (84.71%) neglect; 10,039 (8.79%) abuse; 6,479 (5.68%) neglect & abuse; 937 (0.82%) dependency. -- Substantiated maltreatment: 1,414 (4.07%) physical abuse. --1,453 (4.18%) sexual abuse; 132 (0.21%) emotional abuse; 74 (0.21%) moral turbitude. --Total abuse substantiated: 3,073 (8.84%); Total neglect substantiated: 31,164 (89.66%).-- Perpetrators: 29,282 (84.19%) biological parent: 7,050 (24%) male; 22,232 (76%) female; 217 (0.62%) adoptive parent:109 (50.23%) male; 108 (49.77%) female. -- 1,628 step-parent: 1,424 (87.47%) male; 204 (12.53%) female. -- 139 (0.40%) foster parent: 43 (30.94%) male; 96 (69%) female. -- 894 (2.57%) grandparent: 228 (25.50%) male; 666 (74.50%) female. --112 (0.32%) step-grandparent: 97 (86.60%) male; 15 (13.40%) female. -- 771 (2.22%) other relative: 366 (47.47%) male; 405 (52.53%) female. -1,173 (3.37%) other caretaker: 942 (80.30%) male; 231 (19.70%) female. --Institution: 133 (0.38%): 90 (67.67%) male employee; 43 (32.33%) female employee. --Daycare facility/plan: 432 (1.24%): 35 (8.10%) male employee ; 397 (91.90%) female employee. Total: 34,781 perpetrators: 10,384 (29.86%) male; 24,397 (70.14%) female [note: Victim may have more than one perpetrator and perpetrator may have been listed for more than one victim]
g) The Statistical Abstract of the United States (1987) Of reported child maltreatment cases between 1980 and 1984 between 57.0% and 61.4% were perpetrated by the mother.
h) U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Children’s Bureau (1997) Highlights of Findings. Based on data from 44 States, there were approximately 3 million reports about maltreatment of children, about two million were investigated and it was estimated that there were approximately 984,000 victims of maltreatment nationwide, a decrease from more than 1 million victims in 1996. The rate of victimization was 13.9 per 1,000 children. More than half of all victims suffered neglect, while almost a quarter suffered physical abuse. Twelve percent of the victims were sexually abused. Victims of psychological abuse, medical neglect, and “other” types of maltreatment accounted for less than 11 percent each. Infants were the largest single-year age group of maltreatment victims, at 7 percent. Forty-one States reported 967 child maltreatment fatalities, which were extrapolated to a national estimate of 1,197. Children younger than age 4 accounted for more than three-quarters of all fatalities. Two percent of all fatalities occurred while the victim was in foster care. [This figure may be conservative due to the potential for misdiagnosis of death as either a result of sudden infant death syndrome, homicide, or accidents. Many states have difficulty in acquiring enough information from the coroner's office and the judicial system about the particular circumstances surrounding a child's death to determine if abuse or neglect could have been a factor] Three-quarters of perpetrators of child maltreatment were parents, and an additional tenth were other relatives. DCDC data reveal that 184,152 perpetrators (62.3 percent) were female, and 111,473 (37.7 percent) were male DCDC data show that male perpetrators were associated with 74.1 percent (15,606) of sexual abuse victims. Female perpetrators were associated with 82.0 percent (4,716) of medical neglect victims and 73.9 percent (83,769) of neglect victims. Males and females were each associated with approximately half of physical abuse and psychological abuse victims. Not all child maltreatment fatalities are reported to CPS agencies.
i) U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (1996) Child Maltreatment. Reports from the States to the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1998). Seventy-seven percent of perpetrators of child maltreatment were parents, and an additional 11 percent were other relatives of the victim. It is estimated that over 80 percent of all perpetrators were under age 40 and that almost two-thirds were females.
j) Sexual Offenses Against Children (1984), also known as the "Badgley Report" (Canada)
For the category of sexual assault, about 3 in 4 victims in the study were female, 1 in 4 was a boy. The study also found that the proportion of sexually assaulted males increased with age, while the reporting dropped, dramatically so after puberty. In the National Population Health Survey, 90% of males and 75% of females did not report their abuse experience. Overall, female victims were twice as likely to report their sexual abuse experiences.
The study also reported findings about female perpetrators that have received absolutely no public or professional attention, specifically, "exposure" to males and use of juveniles working in prostitution. Both of these findings are ignored in discussions about prevalence rates pertaining to males. In the sub-study of National Police Force Survey findings (Badgley, 1984), the report reveals that males account for 99.4% of charges laid for exposure, women .06%. However, in the National Population Health Survey (Badgley, 1984), 77.6% of victims of both sexes reported being exposed to by males, while 22.4% of victims reported being exposed to by females. In these incidents, 33% of males reported unwanted exposure of a female’s genitalia. One in thirteen exposures to females were by females, 1 in 20 involved exposure of a female’s genitalia.
However, it is likely that these findings fail to consider the fact that it is the seriousness of the abuse that brought the incident involving a male victim to the attention of official agencies in the first place. Male victims tend not to report less severe types of sexual abuse, especially those involving female perpetrators. In spite of the reported levels of female exposure in the National Population Health Survey, only a small fraction of female exposers end up being reported or charged.
a) A somewhat different picture is presented in a research paper by Marlene Dalley, Royal Canadian Mounted Police and titled: The Killing of Canadian Children by Parent(s) or by Guardian(s): Characteristics and Trends 1990-1993. It may be worth to note that these numbers refer to those cases where the perpetrator was known.
P. 16, Table 5: Total number of children killed by fathers: 35, by stepfathers 4, by mothers 42, by stepmothers 2.
Text: Offender’s relationship to the child: In 48% of the 99 deaths, the offender was either the mother or the step mother and in 39% the offender was either father or step father. The mother and father planned the killing together in 1% of the incidents.
P.18. …of the 88 homicide incidents 11 incidents involved a parent or guardian killing more than one child. In 9 out of the 11 multiple killings the offender committed suicide or attempted to commit suicide after the killing. … A total of 22 child deaths occurred in a multiple killing situation. 6 fathers or guardians killed 12 children, 5 mothers or guardians killed 10 children.
b) U.S. Department of Justice. Bureau of Justice Statistics. A parent is the perpetrator in most homicides of children under age 5
Of all children under age 5 murdered from 1976-97 --
§ 27% were killed by mothers
§ 27% were killed by fathers
§ 24% were killed by acquaintances
§ 6% were killed by other relatives
§ 3% were killed by strangers
§ 12% were killed by perpetrators whose relationship was unknown
a) Artingstall, Kathryn A., "Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy," FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin, August 1995: Detective Artingstall serves with the Orlando, Florida, Police Department.
Highly disputed child custody cases often generate charges of child abuse. Sometimes, MSP offenders accuse the other parent of abuse in order to mask their own wrongdoing and to keep custody of the child. In cases where an estranged parent involved in a custody dispute reports illnesses or accuses the other parent of child abuse, investigators should explore all potential motivations for such accusations. Falsified reports for custodial purposes could be a valid concern.
Suspected MSP offenders who believe that they are being watched, have been accused of MSP abuse, or sense the need for self-vindication might seek assistance by accessing public shelters provided for victims of domestic violence. In such cases, offenders rely on their highly developed skills of deception.
Because personnel working at these shelters function for the protection and assistance of traumatized women, they might be reluctant to question an incoming client's account of victimization. This situation highlights the need for a concrete investigative protocol when suspicion falls on an MSP offender.
Once a woman gravitates to an abuse shelter, police access might be difficult, and the support system in the shelter will reinforce her fictitious explanation of the child's injuries or illness.
In cases where a child has either died from abuse or matured to the point that the caregiver believes it is too dangerous to continue the abuse, the offender might attempt to find another suitable victim. The offender commonly substitutes a younger sibling for the initial victim. In rare cases, both children might share the abuse simultaneously, but it is more likely that the offender will concentrate on one victim at a time. Because offenders revel emotionally in the attention derived from MSP, it seems reasonable to assume that only one child would be necessary to gain such attention. However, investigators would be remiss to assume singular victimization because MSP offenders maintain their own peculiar index of rationalization.
Unfortunately, MSP has become a popular means to "dump" cases when agencies seek to establish a link between this syndrome and maternal homicide.
Investigators should consider the possibility of MSP if they believe there to be some secondary gain, in the form of attention or notoriety, afforded the offender at the expense of the victim. If investigators find no warning signs associated with MSP cases or no secondary gain in the form of attention, then they should consider the possibility of homicide without the association of the MSP factor.
Confusion with SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome)
With further investigation, identified MSP offenders might be linked to the deaths of their other children. Often, the original medical examiners incorrectly identified these deaths as resulting from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Whether the child actually knows that the offender has induced the illness depends on the child's physical age and the offender's covert skills.
Careful planning and caution in this area can be critical; research indicates that from 9 to 31 percent of all MSP victims die at the hands of their perpetrators.
A growing list of cases involving Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy confirms that this disorder represents a substantial challenge to the criminal justice system
b) North Staffordshire Hospital is examining claims surrounding the diagnosis of Munchausen syndrome by proxy, a mental condition which leads parents, mostly mothers, to induce or fabricate illness in their own children. Dr. Southall’s report says: "Video-taped evidence of sadistic abuse of children ranging in age from two months to 44 months resulted in child care proceedings leading to care orders in 38 of the 39 cases. As a result 33 of the 39 parents were also the subject of criminal prosecutions." Deliberate suffocation was recorded in 30 cases. A total of 12 brothers and sisters of the 39 children had died. All but one of these deaths was attributed to cot death. After a hospital investigation, four parents admitted suffocating eight of the children. "Covert surveillance has revealed that many such parents appear caring and kind in the presence of professionals, yet within seconds of being alone with the child become cruel and sadistic."
c) A report published in the American Academy of Pediatrics discusses the use of hidden cameras and listening devices in hospital rooms at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta at Scottish Rite (formerly Scottish Rite Children's Medical Center, Atlanta, GA), Between 1993 and 1997 a total of 41 patients were monitored. MSP was stated to be present in 23 of the cases. Fifty-five percent of the mothers accused had previous experience in healthcare and another twenty-five percent had worked in day care.
The cameras, installed over four years, helped diagnose 23 mothers with Munchausen syndrome by proxy — a mental illness that causes parents hungry for attention or sympathy to abuse their children.
Doctors say the mental illness leads to children's deaths in about 10 percent of cases. But they say diagnosing the disorder is difficult, and the number could be higher.