"Universal reporting laws and child maltreatment report rates in large U.S. counties"

Michigan Law Authors
Areas of Interest
Publish Date
2014
Publication
Children and Youth Services Review
Publication Type
Journal Article
Abstract

The effects of universal mandated reporting laws on child maltreatment reporting rates have not been systematically evaluated. To better understand the effects of universal reporting, the objectives of the present study are: (1) to evaluate the relationship of total and confirmed child maltreatment report rates with state universal reporting laws; (2) to determine whether demographic characteristics modify these effects; and (3) to assess whether these relationships, if any, hold with confirmed reports of specific child maltreatment types. We used county-level data from the U.S. National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System for the year 2000 in linear regression models to evaluate reporting rates for total reports, confirmed reports, and confirmed maltreatment types in a cross-sectional, ecological analysis. We compared these rates while controlling for child and community demographic variables such as child population size, gender, race, ethnicity, school attendance, disability, poverty, housing, high school graduation, parental marriage, religiosity, unemployment and crime. We found that counties in states with laws mandating that all adults must report suspected child maltreatment have significantly higher rates of total and confirmed reports even after controlling for several demographic characteristics previously associated with CM in the literature. However, among CM types, universal reporting was associated only with higher rates of confirmed neglect. Since it is unclear whether changing state law or policy will enhance case identification in states that do not currently require universal reporting, policymakers should consider whether universal reporting will meaningfully improve CM identification as they consider changes to state statutes.