Emotional Maltreatment Reports in Children: The Influence of State Statutes and Co-Occurring Maltreatment

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Allegations of emotional maltreatment pose a challenge for child welfare systems, partially because state statutes tend to use vague definitions. In this study, the relationship between statutory definitions and reported rates of emotional maltreatment was examined. Using data from the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS), comparisons were made of the rates of emotional maltreatment in broad versus narrow state statutes. Results indicated that states with broad statutes had higher rates of both alleged and substantiated emotional maltreatment, although only in cases where emotional maltreatment was the sole type of reported abuse. The results buttress the argument that definitions of emotional maltreatment suffer from a lack of clarity and consistency across the United States.



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