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COVID policies have increased domestic abuse and child abuse

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There have been many reports in the media of increased domestic violence against both adults and children during COVID.  I spoke to a psychologist who serves on a child abuse board who told me they had a large increase in reports of child abuse and calls for help with child abuse. In a cursory search I did not find any peer-reviewed literature that seemed to give good data on that, but it makes sense that there would be increased domestic abuse and child abuse.  By the lockdown policies we made people more depressed and irritable (19.3% increase in major depression) and we confined families together at home more by closing schools, increasing unemployment, closing restaurants, bars, churches, health clubs and every place people gather outside of the home, and, for those still working, increased working from home.  More depressed and irritable family members involuntarily spending more time together at home is a recipe for increased domestic abuse and child abuse.  That was entirely predictable and was predicted by many when we began our COVID lockdown response, but we decided as a society that this was another harm that was worth it to reduce COVID deaths.

I am not really going to try to quantify how much increased child abuse and domestic abuse has occurred because of our societal COVID restrictions because we do not have good data on that.  But we do have good data on the incidence of child abuse in 2018 pre-COVID.  According to the U.S. government, there were 678,000 children (unique individuals) who were victims of abuse in 2018 in the U.S. and 1,770 were killed (references 1 and 2).  Thirty-nine percent or 264,000 of these were victims of physical or sexual abuse and the rest were victims of neglect only.  If the COVID restrictions have increased abuse only 10%, and it seems like a certainty to me that abuse would have increased at least 10%, then our COVID restrictions are responsible for causing an additional 68,000 children to suffer abuse and 177 to be killed.  If the restrictions have doubled child abuse, which seems possible, then they have caused 678,000 children to suffer abuse and 1,770 to be killed.  That compares to the 200,000 COVID deaths we are estimating the restrictions are preventing.




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