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Understanding the Decline in Child Victimization: A National- and State-Level Analysis of Child Abuse and Neglect Trends

Award Information

Award #
Awardee County
St. Louis
Congressional District
Funding First Awarded
Total funding (to date)

Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2015, $67,501)

The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) Graduate Research Fellowship Program
provides awards to accredited universities for doctoral student research that uses criminal justice data or statistical series and focuses on crime, violence, and other criminal justice-related topics.

BJS invests in doctoral education by supporting universities that sponsor students who demonstrate the potential to complete doctoral degree programs successfully in disciplines relevant to the mission of BJS, and who are in the final stages of graduate study.

The ultimate goal of the program is to increase the pool of researchers using criminal justice statistical data generated by BJS, thereby contributing solutions that better prevent and control crime and help ensure the fair and impartial administration of criminal justice in the United States.

Under this award, BJS is funding dissertation research proposed by the University of Missouri St. Louis on behalf of student Maribeth L. Rezey entitled, "Understanding the Decline in Child Victimization: A National and State-Level Analysis of Child Abuse and Neglect Trends."

Figures from the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS) suggest that national rates of child abuse and neglect declined during the last decade of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first century. These data, which are derived from official state child protective service agency record systems, have frequently been used to measure changes in child abuse and neglect in the U.S. and in individual U.S. states. However, because the NCANDS has yet to be assessed for methodological issues surrounding the validity of the data to measure temporal change, it is unknown if the decline revealed in the NCANDS data reflect the true nature of the changes over time in the occurrence of child abuse and/or neglect. Two main components of the proposed project attempt to provide a comprehensive national- and state-level analysis of child abuse and neglect trends from 1990-2013.

First, the measurement component investigates the validity of the NCANDS data for describing both national- and state-level changes in child abuse and neglect from 1990-2013. This examination assesses the NCANDS data (i.e., national- and state-level rates of child physical abuse, child sexual abuse, and child neglect) by comparing them to national rates of child homicide from public health and law enforcement records, as well as National Crime Victimization Survey-based estimates of children exposed to violence using both correlational and co-integration techniques. NCANDS state-level rates of child abuse and neglect are also compared to state-level rates of child homicide.

Second, the substantive component of this project uses state-level data from 1990-2013 to assess how several hypotheses posed by victimization scholars might account for state-level variations in child abuse and neglect trends. This analysis seeks to better understand child abuse and neglect over time by examining how these hypotheses (e.g., increased economic prosperity, increased number of agents of social control, increased incarceration rates, and increased use of psychiatric medications) are related to state-level trends in child abuse and neglect. Ordinary least squares regressions, as well as fixed-effects and random-effects panel models are used to assess changes in the rates of child abuse and neglect after accounting for changes in the various explanatory measures.

Ultimately, the results of this project should produce a more accurate assessment of the NCANDS data’s ability to measure temporal change in child victimization and provide empirical to support why rates of child abuse and neglect declined post-1990.

Note: This project contains a research and/or development component, as defined in applicable law.


Date Created: September 30, 2015