45 20th annual crime prevention guide The issue Abuse and neglect of youth is a serious social problem. Despite the ability of some youth to overcome the effects of maltreatment during adolescence, a history of abuse and/or neglect is associated with serious consequences, such as: • Development of mental illness, especially disorders related to over-use of drugs and alcohol; depression; anxiety (especially as it relates to reminders of trauma); and eating disorders. Other difficulties encountered by youth with histories of maltreatment are related to their ability to trust and engage in relationships with others, as well as their ability to attend, concentrate and learn at school. • Links with high school drop-out. High school drop-out is related to decreased lifelong earning potential. Poverty has been shown to heighten the risk of developing longterm health conditions and adding stress to daily functioning. • Links to risk-taking behaviour and conflict with the law. • Links to lower social support; fewer relationships; isolation. • Links to heightened risk of suicide and life-threatening behaviour. Clearly, the effects of maltreatment of youth involve immediate and long-term suffering. These consequences turn into a loss for society. All youth are faced with the major tasks of growing into healthy adulthood. Healthy development is threatened by experiences of abuse and/or neglect, and its lack puts youth at significant disadvantage (compared with non-maltreated peers) as they enter early adulthood. Background The exact number of Canadian youth who are maltreated is unknown. However, The Canadian Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect – 2003: Major Findings (Trocmé, N., Fallon, B., MacLaurin, B., Daciuk, J., Felstiner, C., et al., 2005) states that of all reported maltreatment investigations that took place during the fall of 2003 in Canada, 24% involved youth aged 12–15. Of these investigations, 49% were substantiated. In other words, almost half of the cases of suspected maltreatment (involving youth) that were reported to child protection services were found to have supporting evidence that maltreatment had occurred, as described by the investigating child welfare workers’ professional opinion. Importantly, not every province and territory has maltreatment legislation for youth older than 15. This makes it more difficult to estimate incidence rates for youth between the ages of 16 and 19. Based on existing data from the Canadian Incidence Study – 2003, however, the authors observed an increase in substantiation rates among older youth. What is maltreatment? The five primary categories of maltreatment are: (i) Physical abuse (ii) Sexual abuse (iii) Neglect (iv) Emotional maltreatment (v) Exposure to domestic violence Nineteen percent of substantiated cases of maltreatment documented in the CIS–2003 involved investigations of more than one category of maltreatment. The most frequent co-occurring forms of maltreatment in children were neglect and emotional maltreatment. Plans for collecting information on the rate of substantiated cases of co-occurring maltreatment involving youth are currently under way. What youth are at risk? Gender (aged 12–15) Across the five categories of maltreatment, female youth aged 12–15 experience higher rates of substantiated maltreatment than do male youth of the same age group. Age (12–15) Across the five major kinds of maltreatment, both male and female youth experience higher rates of substantiated physical and sexual abuse than do children of any other age group. Maltreatment of youth by type Sexual abuse • Seventy-nine percent of substantiated cases of sexual abuse involved female youth, whereas 21% involved male youth. • The substantiation rate for females experiencing sexual abuse increases with age. Given that youth between the ages of 16 and 18 are less protected by child welfare laws, the finding that adolescent girls are more frequently sexually victimized as they age makes them particularly at risk.