• Reports says 1% increase in unemployment leads to 20% increase in child neglect.
  • Study looking at reports of child abuse in wake of 2008 financial crash.

There is a direct link between the rise of in numbers of the unemployed with an increase in the number of children who are suffering from neglect, according to research.

Described as the first of its kind, a report from the Oxford University shows the number of reported child neglect cases in the US – where a parents' inability to provide for provide basic care for their child harmed their health, safety and wellbeing – increase in line with the spike of unemployment during the financial crisis of 2007-08.

After collecting every case of child abuse and neglect to the state Child Protective Services for nearly every US county from 2004 to 2012, the researchers found a 1% increase in the unemployment rate resulted in a 20% increase in reported neglect.

The report, entitled The impact of unemployment on child maltreatment in the United States, also suggests that the amount of unemployment benefits available to people also impacted the number of child neglect cases.

While ordinarily only offered on a maximum 26-week period, during the economic crisis unemployment benefits were extended in some states anywhere between 48 and 99 weeks.

The research found that the US states that offered 87 weeks of unemployment benefits saw child neglect increased by 14%, but in states that only offered a maximum of 55 weeks of benefits, reported incidents of child neglect rose by 21%.

In addition, recent studies find that the during the recession there was an increase in the number of hospital admissions for child head trauma, physical abuse and "high frequency spanking".

Dan Brown, PhD student in Economics at Oxford University, who co-authored the report, said: added: "Our study shows that unemployment causes an increase in child neglect, with little evidence of an effect on other types of abuse.

"During hard times, if parents lose their jobs and don't have access to safety nets, they no longer have the means to provide for their children, which ultimately leads to neglect.

"We also found an indication that after a job loss people spend less on basic goods, like food and beverages. In doing so, this can lead to a higher likelihood of neglect."

The report also suggests a number of other links with regards to neglect, including how low income parents are more likely to use physical threaten or abuse their child if they are misbehaving as they cannot provide other types of incentives.

It also suggests black children are the least likely to have two employed parents living with them, and were accordingly more at risk of neglect when one parent lost a job compared to Caucasian or Hispanic children.

Elisabetta De Cao, Research Fellow in Oxford's Centre for Health Service Economics & Organisation, added: "There is increasing research on the causal effect of economic conditions on domestic violence, but this work has never been done for children, which is a very different dynamic.

"In general policies that are designed to enable parents' employment security could prove an important contribution to reducing child maltreatment. There is an indication that cutting these services will lead to an increase in neglect.

"We need to better understand whether parents face barriers to creating private safety nets, which could help people to cope during bad economic times.

"If we can reduce the number of neglected children, it will have a positive long-term impact on society. These children will go on to have better outcomes in adulthood, which will have positive labour, health and economic effects."