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A record 23,738 cases of child abuse were reported to child welfare centers nationwide in fiscal 2002, topping the previous year’s record by 464, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry said.

But the ministry said the growth was the smallest since it started keeping figures in fiscal 1990, after jumping by between 4,000 and 6,000 cases each year since the issue first became recognized as a problem around fiscal 1999.

Cases of physical abuse continued to comprise the largest number, at 19,032, or 46 percent, followed by neglect, at 8,940, or 38 percent, psychological abuse, at 3,046, or 13 percent, and sexual abuse, at 820, or 3 percent.

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