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Hidden Protections: Identifying Social Norms Associated with Child Abuse, Sexual Abuse, and Neglect


Child abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect are serious problems in the United States impacting hundreds of thousands of children each year. Frameworks and strategies that promote positive community norms have the potential to prevent the occurrence of child abuse, sexual abuse, and neglect through strategic communications. Social norms interventions aim to identify and correct misperceptions of norms, as a way to shift group attitudes and behaviors. The purpose of the current study was to review data from one national survey and one state survey in order to increase understanding of cultural norms and potential intervention opportunities associated with the prevention of child abuse, child sexual abuse, and neglect broadly. The majority of respondents in both surveys indicate that that child maltreatment is a serious problem and that the prevention of child maltreatment is possible. However, some individuals are less knowledgeable or comfortable with taking action to prevent child maltreatment. Barriers to involvement in preventing maltreatment are discussed as well as the next steps to implement normative campaigns and interventions to increase effective prevention efforts.

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Correspondence to J. Bart Klika.

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Klika, J.B., Haboush-Deloye, A. & Linkenbach, J. Hidden Protections: Identifying Social Norms Associated with Child Abuse, Sexual Abuse, and Neglect. Child Adolesc Soc Work J 36, 5–14 (2019).

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  • Social norms
  • Positive community norms
  • Child abuse
  • Sexual abuse
  • Neglect