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Report: Child neglect makes up 75 percent of abuse cases

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A new report shows that physical and sexual abuse cases are down in the United States. But, troubling statistics show that child psychological and emotional abuse cases are on the rise.

The report, which was issued on Sept. 12, was completed by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) and National Research Council of the National Academies (NRC). The two non-profit organizations were created to advise the government on different issues.

Annually, Child Protective Services is made aware of cases involving six million children in the U.S., the report noted. Many more cases of neglect and abuse may go unreported.

Physical and sexual abuse make up 8 and 9 percent of cases respectively, according to the report. Overwhelmingly, child neglect makes up 75 percent of reported abuse cases in the U.S., and the majority involve children under the age of five. Only 20 percent of investigated cases of abuse resulted in a removal of the child from home.

"Child neglect encompasses a huge number of different problems," David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, told CBSNews.com.

Finkelhor, who was not involved in the report, explained that neglect can include everything from parents of newborns who don't respond to their needs to caregivers who do not make sure their child gets to school to parents who don't get healthcare for their child's medical needs. Some parents may be exposing their kids to dangers like family violence.

These cases can be extremely serious and lead to the death of the child. But, neglect can leave deep psychological scars that linger.

"A child who isn't properly attended to after birth, they develop what is called 'failure to thrive,'" Finklehor said. "They don't grow adequately. Their brains don't develop adequately. They fail to attach to a parent which creates a lifetime of problems."

Both male and female children are abused at equal rates, and about 80 percent of abusers are parents. More than half of perpetrators are female.

An Oct. 2012 report in Pediatrics showed abuse-related serious injuries such as head trauma and burns for children under 18 rose 4.9 percent from 1997 through 2009.

Molly Jenkins, a research analyst with the American Humane Association who was not involved in the new study, told USA Today that the increased statistics may be due to society's acceptance that emotional and psychological abuse can have an effect. More people may be compelled to say something.

"Whereas 30 years ago, people may have scoffed at the idea of taking emotional abuse seriously, that's really evolved in recent years," Jenkins said. "People may be more likely to report it or to take those reports seriously once they have come into the system."

Improvements have been made to address the problems of child abuse and neglect in the country, but more needs to be done. Finklehor added that the report showed that different programs -- which include nurses visiting parents of newborn kids, classes to teach effective parenting and educating children on how to avoid being victims of sexual abuse -- that are currently in place show that it is possible to help prevent child abuse and neglect.

The report highlighted that the federal government is taking more concerted leadership and helping physicians and states get mobilized to stop child abuse and neglect, but coordination of research is still not where it needs to be. The organizations asked the government to partner with private foundations and academic institutions to create a national research agenda on child abuse and neglect. They also requested that researchers be dedicated to the topic.

The IOM and NRC also called for a national surveillance system run by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help identify children who may be at risk and look at state and national abuse trends. These changes should be done in conjunction with changes in federal and state policy, in order to increase the reporting of abuse cases and lower the number of children who are suffering.

Finklehor explained the Affordable Health Care Act has already earmarked some funds to go towards preventing child abuse and neglect. Addressing these issues can mean less medical costs in the long term, especially since abuse victims tend to have more chronic health issues as adults.

"The ACA is putting a lot of emphasis on reducing the cost of illness and injury," Finklehor said. "There is a recognizing that preventing abuse and neglect can be very cost-effective and cut medical care costs."