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Health Indicator Report of Child emotional abuse, self-reported

All types of child abuse represent a threat to public health. Child emotional abuse is one of eight commonly tracked adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and research into child abuse and neglect (CAN) and ACEs has consistently shown the potential for many negative long-term impacts on health, opportunity, and well-being. Tracking child abuse prevalence is a complicated task and some of the best data available are self-reported retrospective data which gives a more complete view of prevalence over child protective services or hospital data.
Female adults indicated a significantly higher prevalence of emotional abuse during their childhood than male adults (both ~1 in 3). Among youth, females also indicated a significantly higher prevalence of emotional abuse in the last 12 months than males (~1 in 2 vs ~1 in 3).

Self-reported child emotional abuse prevalence (YRBS/youth and age-adjusted BRFSS/adults) by sex and data source, Utah, 2021 (YRBS) and 2013, 2016, 2018, 2020 (BRFSS)


Adult/BRFSS and youth/YRBS emotional abuse data are each collected with different questions that include different time frames. The emotional abuse question utilized in the YRBS has only been asked one time in 2021, while the BRFSS question has been asked in 2013, 2016, 2018, and 2020.

Data Interpretation Issues

BRFSS (Adults) - How often did a parent or adult in your home ever swear at you, insult you, or put you down? Was it . . . (Possible answers: Never, Once, More than once; question refers to the time period before the respondent was 18 years of age) YRBS (Youth) - During the past 12 months, how many times has a parent or other adult in your home sworn at you, insulted you, or put you down? (Possible answers: 0, 1, 2 or 3, 4 or 5, or 6+) Response options from both surveys were dichotomized into whether or not emotional abuse occurred at all during the referenced time frame. The responses are subjective, however, the subjective reality is what seems to matter when considering the potential for long-term negative impacts.


Self-reported child emotional abuse data is retrospective data collected from adults via the Utah BRFSS Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) Module and youth via the Utah YRBS tier 2 ACEs and Positive Childhood Experiences (PCEs) questionnaire. Adult prevalence is looking retrospectively at their whole childhood (<18), while youth prevalence only looks back at the previous 12 months.


The number of youth or adults who indicated at least one instance of emotional abuse on the YRBS (2021) or BRFSS (2013, 2016, 2018, 2020).


The total number of youth or adults who provided any response to the emotional abuse question on the YRBS (2021) or BRFSS (2013, 2016, 2018, 2020).

Healthy People Objective IVP-38:

Reduce nonfatal child maltreatment
U.S. Target: 8.5 maltreatment victims per 1,000 children

How Do We Compare With the U.S.?

When comparing BRFSS data, the prevalence of emotional child abuse in Utah is higher than nationally (38.3% vs 34.4%, both ~1 in 3). National prevalence comes from a 2018 Merrick, et al. study that included 2011-2014 BRFSS data from 23 states, while Utah prevalence is from the ACEs Module included in the Utah BRFSS in 2013, 2016, 2018, and 2020. Source: Merrick, M.T., Ford, D.C., Ports, K. A., Guinn, A. S. (2018). Prevalence of Adverse Childhood Experiences From the 2011-2014 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System in 23 States. JAMA Pediatrics, 172(11), 1038-1044.

Evidence-based Practices

Promote safe stable nurturing relationships and environments for all children by: *Strengthen economic support for families *Strengthen social norms to connect with and support parents and youth *Enhance parenting skills to promote healthy child development *Promote quality care and education early in life *Intervene to lessen harm and prevent future risk
Page Content Updated On 10/07/2022, Published on 06/15/2023
The information provided above is from the Utah Department of Health and Human Services IBIS-PH web site ( The information published on this website may be reproduced without permission. Please use the following citation: " Retrieved Mon, 27 May 2024 20:05:18 from Utah Department of Health and Human Services, Indicator-Based Information System for Public Health Web site: ".

Content updated: Thu, 15 Jun 2023 12:22:09 MDT