• November 2011
  • Vol. 12, No. 8

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The Economic Recession’s Impact on Child Maltreatment Rates

A study exploring the relationship between the nation’s recent economic downturn and child maltreatment rates found only weak and inconsistent links. "Are Economic Trends Associated With Child Maltreatment? Preliminary Results From the Recent Recession Using State Level Data," by Lina Millett, Paul Lanier, and Brett Drake, makes note of the steady decline of child maltreatment rates in recent history and documents the researchers' attempts to explore whether or not the current economic recession might be reversing this positive trend. 

The research study examines the relationships between economic indicators—including unemployment rates, food stamp usage, and labor force participation—and child maltreatment rates. State-level economic and child maltreatment data were collected from the following seven States: Arizona, California, Massachusetts, Missouri, North Carolina, Oregon, and Wisconsin.  The time periods that the researchers examined differed across States: the starting point for all States was January 2008, but the ending point across States spanned from September 2009 to May 2010.

Contrary to the researchers’ expectations, results generally indicated no relationships between child maltreatment rates and the study’s chosen indicators of economic recession. The article notes that the lack of significant findings might be due to study limitations, including, but not limited to the following: (1) the small sample of States may not be representative of the rest of the country, and (2) sufficient time may not yet have elapsed since the beginning of the recession to draw conclusions on trends. The researchers conclude the article by noting that the results from their study lend evidence to the notion that the relationship between child maltreatment and poverty is not always straightforward, and future research should be conducted in order to better understand the connections that exist between these variables.

The full article was published in Children and Youth Services Review, Vol. 33, and can be purchased on the publishers' website:


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