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National Analysis of Official Child Neglect and Abuse Reporting, 1978

NCJ Number
Date Published
50 pages
This report addresses two major issues: the status and characteristics of child abuse reporting systems and the profile of child maltreatment as it is portrayed through official reports.
The reporting systems are making tremendous progress in bringing incidents of child maltreatment to the attention of those in the position to protect the involved children from further maltreatment. The data collection effort for the national study indicates that reporting has increased by over 47 percent from 1975 to 1978. However, the lack of uniformity among reporting systems in terms of associated legislation and departmental procedures remains problematic. Variation in what is reported precludes a realistic assessment of the actual extent of child maltreatment on a national basis. A profile of child maltreatment from official reports indicates that the offense is clearly a family problem, since over 90 percent of the perpetrators are the child's own parents. A profile of these families shows that they are generally poor, headed by parents of limited education, and subject to a number of stress factors. These include broken family, insufficient income, inadequate housing, etc. The children who suffered maltreatment were of all ages and of both sexes. As a group, they did not seem to have any special characteristics that contributed to their parents' maltreatment of them. The major form of maltreatment was deprivation of necessities; only a minority suffered major physical harm. The families received a variety of social services, such as casework counseling, health services, and foster care. However, when the families involved in abuse and those involved in neglect are viewed separately, two distinct profiles emerge. The neglectful families are characterized by a lack of income and the abusive families are characterized by a lack of tolerance, loss of control during discipline, and a parental history of abuse as children. Although the number of reports of child maltreatment have increased over the past few years, the reporting data have remained remarkably consistent in such areas as characteristics of families involved, substantiation rates, and the proportion of victims in various types of maltreatment. Footnotes, 28 tables, and 18 references are provided. A copy of the National Standard Reporting Form is appended. (Author abstract modified).