Childhood abuse and neglect have been linked to poor school performance, smoking and drug use, suicide attempts, and a host of health problems including heart, liver and lung diseases. Interdisciplinary scientists have traced out the social, psychological, and biological pathways that connect experience in the family and neighborhood to these health outcomes.
State governments have now begun to look for research-informed approaches to reducing abuse and neglect. Both Washington and California have passed legislation to promote polices to combat these problems, and other states have considered or passed related measures. In part, these efforts were spurred by population health research showing high rates of abuse and neglect among children – for example, one study showed that one in eight American kids experience this by the time they are 18. Research is currently underway to find out what combination of services works best to reduce this or mitigate its effects: parenting programs, mental health services, community supports for at-risk families, making school environments more compassionate, strengthening youth development and prevention programs, and other approaches.