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Abuse in children under 6 years of age increases: almost 5,000 cases in 2020

Barely one in ten cases of child abuse ever come to light. Most of those that come to light are communicated by social services and affect young people between 11 and 17 years old. But the latest data shows an increase in violence against children: 2,868 children under 3 years of age and 2,040 between 4 and 6 years of age suffered it in 2020.

In Spain, 15,688 notifications of child abuse were registered, of which almost half -48.7%- were “serious” cases, as reflected in the latest Bulletin of Measures for the Protection of Children of the Ministry of Social Rights, prepared with the data of suspicions communicated by the autonomous communities.

In the first year of the pandemic, communications of situations of abuse linked to children under 6 years of age increased, going from 4,217 in 2019 to 4,918. These are cases notified, in addition to social services, by the Security Forces, health workers or schools.

In commemoration of the International Day for the Fight against Child Abuse, on April 25, the experts emphasize the importance of working with families through training programs for conflict resolution, parenting support or accompaniment by part of Social Services in cases of risk situations, as established by the law for the protection of children against violence, approved in June 2021.

“We must put the law into practice now if we want to end child abuse and support a respectful parenting style with the development of the little ones; it has the keys to applying good treatment, which means educating with affection, being firm and putting limits but without shouting, threatening or punishing, and above all not tolerating the use of violence,” Cristina Sanjuán, from Save the Children, explains to Efe.

The expert in preventing violence against children recalls that a survey of families during the pandemic showed a higher prevalence of losing their nerves and more risk situations in many homes where concerns had increased: One in four parents said they had lost them on some occasion, even shouting or insulting the minor, he indicates.

“It is necessary to provide parents with tools for good treatment from the moment their children are born, so that they can parent in a positive way; a lot of training must be given, to avoid cases such as the shaken child syndrome in which parents do not usually know the consequences of that,” he explains.

But in addition, he considers that this increase in the notification of cases can also be attributed to greater awareness among professionals in contact with minors and society in general, which has allowed family abuse to emerge “which can last a long time and the one who weighs the law of silence, because the aggressor is the father, mother or a caregiver”. “The notification does not present the entire problem but only a small part,” insists the expert, and calls for awareness campaigns to be launched so that everyone is aware that the law includes the duty to notify the authorities of any suspicion that a child might be experiencing violence.


The most frequent type of abuse is negligence -44.84%, 9,666 cases-, followed by emotional abuse -32.71%, 7,051-, both increasing compared to the previous year. Notifications referring to sexual abuse and physical abuse decreased, which meant 1,375 and 3,463, respectively. By age, there was a decrease in cases of abuse of adolescents (15 to 17 years old), which amount to 3,228, compared to 3,616 in 2019.

On the other hand, those referred to children between 0 and 3 years old rose from 2,372 in 2019 to 2,868 in 2020 and also in the range of 4 to 6 years old from 1,845 to 2,040. Between 7-10 years (2,949) and 11-14 (4,581) the figures are similar to the previous period. By sex, 46.16% affected girls and 53.84% male minors.

The 15,676 cases reported in 2020 represent an increase of 2.1% compared to the previous year (15,334). The largest increases were recorded in Andalusia (68%), Cantabria (40%) and the Valencian Community (41%); they fell above all in Ceuta and Melilla (65% and 52%). In relation to the rate of population under 18 years of age, the Balearic Islands, Extremadura and the Canary Islands have the highest number of notifications of cases of abuse.

Cases referring to foreign minors decreased. 86% of the notifications of mistreatment were of Spanish minors (13,567) and 14% foreigners (2,114). In 2019, there were 10,289 Spanish nationals and 5,067 foreign nationals.

The largest number of communications come from the field of social services, with 39.2% of the total; 30% from the leisure and sports environment, 12% from the educational environment, 9.3% from the State Security Forces and Bodies and 9% from the health field.

2.7% of the notifications of abuse were referred to minors with some disability, a total of 423 children. Regarding the evolution, the growth experienced in 2016, 2017 and 2018 is broken in 2019 with a fall of 18.28%, and begins a new increase in 2020, 2.1%.

  • minors
  • mistreatment
  • International Day to Fight Child Abuse

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