Henry Kempe conducted a survey of eighty-eight hospitals in which he identified 302 children who had been "battered". The survey, which for the first time defined the "battered child syndrome", graphically catalogued brutality to young children, many of whom suffered multiple injuries. While earlier discoveries of the child abuse phenomenon had smoldered in the public consciousness, Kempe's report ignited a broad-based national effort to find ways to protect children. Specifically, it led to calls for child abuse reporting systems, to ensure that whenever a "battered child" was even suspected, the case would be reported and measures taken to protect the child.
By 1966, all fifty states had passed legislation regulating child abuse, all of which mandated reporting. By 1986, every state but one required reporting of neglect, and forty-one states made explicit reference to reporting of emotional or psychological abuse. Initially mandated reporting was limited to physicians, but this was eventually extended to include teachers, nurses, counselors, and the general public. The state mandated reporting laws resulted in a meteoric rise in child abuse reports across the United States. In 1962, when Kempe and his colleagues published their report, there had been about 10,000 child abuse reports. By 1976, child abuse reports had risen to more than 669,000 and by 1978 to 836,000. By 1992, almost 3 million reports of child abuse were filed nationwide, including 1,261 child abuse-related fatalities. If current trends continue, it is projected that more than 4 million children will be reported for abuse annually by the year 2000.
There are many different definitions for child abuse. According to the Child Abuse Prevention Act (CAPTA) of 1996, child abuse and neglect is defined as: "at a minimum, any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker, which .
results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation, or an act or failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm.