Reporting and identifying child physical abuse: How well are we doing?

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1 Scopus citations


Entry into the child protection system in the US begins with a child maltreatment report. Some evidence suggests that report source and child age are related to report outcomes, but there has been no national study of these relationships. The purpose of this secondary data analysis was to describe the distribution of report sources for child physical abuse (CPA), and examine whether (a) the source of a report and (b) child age contribute to the likelihood of substantiation of the reported abuse. Multilevel logistic regressions were conducted using a US national sample of 204,414 children investigated for CPA in 2013 in a dataset obtained from the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System. Results showed that fewer than one in seven children reported for CPA were confirmed victims of abuse. Professionally mandated reporters initiated the majority of CPA reports, and their reports were more likely to be substantiated compared with nonprofessionals. However, reports made by even the most accurate professional group (legal/law enforcement) had only a 26% chance of substantiation, and some professional groups had a lower likelihood of substantiation than nonprofessionals. Reports made by professionals were less likely to be substantiated as child age increased. More research is warranted to develop and test the effectiveness of training programs to improve CPA reporting and identification.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)519-527
Number of pages9
JournalResearch in Nursing and Health
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2017


  • child maltreatment training
  • mandatory reporting
  • physical abuse
  • report source
  • substantiation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)


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