Year: 2017 Source: Ottawa, ON: Statistics Canada, 2017. 20 p. SIEC No: 20170456

This study uses self-reported data from the 2014 General Social Survey (GSS) on Victimization to examine trends in and characteristics of childhood physical abuse over time. Respondents are grouped into one of three birth cohorts: (1) 1940 to 1959; (2) 1960 to 1979; or (3) 1980 to 1999. For each cohort, this article also explores the relationship to the person responsible for the most serious incident of abuse during childhood as well as the probability that it was disclosed to someone. This article also examines the association between childhood physical abuse and various indicators of social integration and trust, health and victimization during young adulthood.

  • Among Canadian adults born between 1940 and 1979, about one in five reported that they experienced physical abuse during their childhood years. This proportion declined to 13% for those who were born between 1980 and 1999.
  • Some characteristics are more likely to be associated with childhood abuse, such as being male, having an Aboriginal identity, and having been under the legal responsibility of the government at some point during childhood.
  • The proportion of those who talked to someone about the abuse increased across successive cohorts. In the most recent birth cohort, females who experienced childhood physical abuse remained more likely to disclose the abuse (48%) than males (40%).
  • Among all individuals aged 15 to 74 who frequently witnessed parental violence, 70% reported that they also experienced childhood physical abuse. Among those who were sexually abused, nearly half (46%) also experienced childhood physical abuse.
  • Childhood physical abuse is associated with lower levels of social integration, trust, and physical and mental health among young adults. For example, 31% of persons aged 15 to 34 who experienced very severe physical abuse had a psychological or health condition that at least sometimes limited their daily activities, compared with 6% of those who did not experience any physical abuse.