The use of multiple informants to assess children's maltreatment experiences

Joan Kaufman, Brenda Jones, Elissa Stieglitz, Lawrence Vitulano, Anthony P. Mannarino

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

94 Scopus citations


Most researchers rely exclusively on the reports of protective service workers to determine children's abuse history. In this report, information about children's maltreatment experiences is obtained from protective service workers and three supplementary sources of data: parents, medical records, and clinical observations. Fifty-six children from 34 families receiving protective services for verified reports of physical abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, and/or emotional maltreatment participated in the study, with most children known to have experienced more than one type of abuse. The supplementary data provided important information about the range and severity of children's maltreatment experiences. Review of the parent and medical record data led to identification of 28 children who had additional types of maltreatment experiences that were not reported by their protective services workers-nine cases of physical abuse, two cases of neglect, five cases of sexual abuse, and 12 cases of emotional maltreatment. Supplementary data also revealed information about incidents of specific types of abuse that were more severe than those reported by the children's protective service workers in an additional 24 cases. A method was devised to synthesize information provided from the different sources of data examined in this report to derive 0-4 point ratings of four categories of maltreatment experiences: (1) physical abuse, (3) neglect, (3) sexual abuse, and (4) emotional maltreatment. The Kappa reliability coefficients for each of these scales were .88, .73, .83, and .90, respectively. Data demonstrating the relationship between these maltreatment ratings and various indices of the children's socioemotional and cognitive functioning were also presented to provide preliminary support for the validity of these scales. The findings from this study suggest that multiple sources of data should be examined in order to obtain accurate assessments of children's maltreatment experiences, and that independent raters can synthesize discrepant data to obtain reliable and valid estimates of children's abuse history. Clinical and methodological issues relevant to the improved assessment of children's maltreatment experiences are also discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)227-248
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Family Violence
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 1994
Externally publishedYes


  • assessment
  • child maltreatment
  • multiple informants

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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