January 05, 2017
1 min read

Child abuse in US Army may be severely underreported

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Recent findings indicated that approximately 20% of child abuse cases among dependents of U.S. Army soldiers were linked to a Family Advocacy Program report, suggesting a need for further regulation of reporting requirements, particularly for children treated in civilian facilities.

“For many years, the U.S. Army has reported rates of child abuse well below that of the civilian population. This study calls those reports into question. Yet, the U.S. Army can only report cases they know about, and our findings suggest that they may not be aware of the majority of their cases,” study researcher David M. Rubin, MD, MSCE, of the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said in a press release.

David Rubin
David M. Rubin

To estimate the percentage of child abuse diagnosed by a military or civilian medical provider who filed a report with the U.S. Army Family Advocacy Program, researchers analyzed medical claims data for dependents of soldiers, aged up to 17 years, who received a medical diagnosis of child maltreatment.

Overall, 20.3% of 5,945 medically diagnosed maltreatment episodes had substantiated Family Advocacy Program reports.

When adjusting for covariates, the likelihood of linkage to a Family Advocacy Program report was higher for physical abuse (25.8%) than sexual abuse (14.5%).

A Family Advocacy Program report was less likely to be filed for an episode in which early care was provided at civilian treatment facilities (9.8%) vs. those treated at military facilities (23.6%).

“What this study tells us is that we have an incomplete picture of what is happening to a large population of children in this country who might need our help,” Rubin said in the release. “We must support further research that will detect how systematic true under-reporting and under-recognition is within the Army and other military branches and shed light on why under-reporting may be occurring. We must also hold Child Protective Services accountable for identifying the military family when they are reported to them, and for communicating their involvement back to [Family Advocacy Program] so the agency can provide consistent military-specific services to children and families in need. Finally, by knowing the true magnitude of this stress to the U.S. Army family, we can better identify the resources [Family Advocacy Program] needs to meet its obligations in serving military families.” – by Amanda Oldt

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.