Japan Data

Reported Child Abuse at Record High with Climb in Psychological Abuse


Each year the number of child abuse cases handled by child guidance offices nationwide has been increasing. In 2017 this figure reached a record high of more than 130,000; guidance officers report a rise in psychological abuse in particular.

According to the Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare, the number of child abuse consultations at child guidance offices in 2017 rose by 11,203 to 133,778, the highest on record. These figures have been rising year on year since data started being collected in 1990. Deaths from child abuse have become a social issue leading to an increase in reports.

Psychological abuse, including the child witnessing one parent beating the other or receiving verbal abuse, was the most prevalent type of abuse reported, accounting for 72,197 cases. This was followed by 33,223 physical abuse cases, 26,818 neglect (abandonment or negligence in child-raising) cases, and 1,540 sexual abuse cases.

The majority of the guidance office consultations, 66,055 cases, came via the police, followed by reports from neighbors and acquaintances (16,982), family members (9,664), and schools and similar institutions (9,281). There were also 1,118 consultations from the actual children being abused.

A specialist committee on child abuse, established by the Ministry of Health’s Social Security Council, reported that 77 children died from abuse in 2016. Of these deaths, 49 were caused by abuse other than murder-suicide. The majority of these abuse deaths were children under the age of one, accounting for 32 of the total, and a high ratio of those, 16, were less than 1 month old. The most common perpetrator was the child’s mother, with 30 deaths reported, and 8 deaths were caused by both the child’s mother and father. A study of the mothers whose children had died from abuse showed that 24 of the mothers had either not planned or had unexpected pregnancies, 23 had not undergone antenatal examinations, and 15 had not registered for mother and child health record books.

Regarding mothers who became pregnant in their teens, an analysis of data for the period from 2005 through March 31, 2017 revealed that there were 111 deaths by abuse, 12 of which were murder-suicides. Many of children who died were under one year old, and of those a high number, 25, died on the day they were born. Looking at family circumstances, 33 deaths occurred in single unmarried parent households; many cases also occurred where the father was not known. The specialist committee found that care needs to be taken not to isolate young pregnant women who have limited knowledge of raising children and few connections with the community, which can make it difficult for them to seek out local support.

(Translated from Japanese. Banner photo © Pixta.)

Child abuse