April is Child Abuse Prevention Month

Child Abuse Prevention Month was formally established in 1983 by President Ronald Reagan to remind us that all children deserve to grow up in a safe, stable, and nurturing environment.1 Too often that is not the case and many children will experience abuse and neglect. Almost 9 in every 1,000 children in the United States were abused in 2018. Of those abused, 60% suffered some form of neglect.2 We at Pediatrics Northwest believe that every day should be a day that supports the health and wellbeing of all children.

Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs)

Traumatic events which occur before the age of 18 are known as adverse childhood experiences and include events such as physical or sexual abuse, neglect, parental substance abuse and incarceration, and witnessing domestic violence.3 These traumatic events can affect brain development and physical health. Children who suffer the prolonged stress of abuse can struggle with behavioral or cognitive performance. Early childhood trauma can even have lasting effects on health into adulthood.3

ACEs can also occur due to community or neighborhood circumstances. Living in a community with a high rate of violence, limited access to social services, poverty, and unemployment can cause short- and long-term adversity. Addressing community needs by giving families support has much more impact, and costs much less, than attempting to address the consequences of adversity after a child has grown up.4

Positive childhood experiences (PaCEs)

One of the best ways to prevent child maltreatment, and support resilience if abuse has occurred, is to promote positive childhood experiences. These experiences include how often a child is able to:5

  • Talk to their family about their feelings
  • Feel their family stand by them during difficult times
  • Enjoy participating in community traditions
  • Feel a sense of belonging in school
  • Feel supported by friends
  • Have at least 2 non-parent adults who take a genuine interest in them
  • Feel safe and protected by an adult in their home

Not all these factors need to be present in order to promote resilience in children. However, the more PaCEs present, the less likely these children will develop behavioral or long-term physical problems.

Protective factors

Protective factors are attributes in families and communities that can increase the well-being of children and families and reduce the likelihood of abuse.6 Even under the most trying circumstances, if we can help families identify and nurture these factors, we can help prevent child maltreatment and foster resiliency. Some of these protective factors are:

  • Nurturing and attachment
  • Knowledge of parenting and of child and youth development
  • Parental resilience
  • Social connections
  • Concrete supports for parents
  • Social and emotional competence of children

We at Pediatrics Northwest are committed to protecting children and families. We believe that by strengthening families and communities we can help prevent child abuse and neglect. Please ask your pediatrician about ways we can help you be the best parent you can be.


  1. UC Santa Barbara, The American Presidency Project
  2. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Child Maltreatment 2018
  3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
  4. Childhelp.org
  5. JAMA Pediatrics
  6. Child Welfare: Protective Factors

Image credit: Patrick Mansell, pinwheels for prevention 2, Penn State

Categories: Behavioral Health, Domestic Violence
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