Journal of Community Health

, Volume 29, Issue 2, pp 141–153 | Cite as

Community Responses and Perceived Barriers to Responding to Child Maltreatment

  • Lillian Bensley
  • Katrina Wynkoop Simmons
  • Deborah Ruggles
  • Tammy Putvin
  • Cynthia Harris
  • Melissa Allen
  • Kathy Williams
Article

Abstract

Although child maltreatment has important effects on physical and psychological health, even serious cases often go unreported. Little is known about actions that individuals take when they know of an abused child, factors influencing whether they take action, or general population beliefs about how best to prevent maltreatment. A random-digit-dialed telephone survey of 504 Washington State civilian, English-speaking adults living in households with telephones was conducted in 2002. Respondents were asked whether they had ever known an abused child and if so, how they responded and any barriers they experienced to responding. Regardless of whether they had known an abused child, they were asked how they would respond in a hypothetical situation and hypothetical barriers. They were also asked what they believed to be effective in preventing maltreatment. Half (49% ± 5%) of the respondents indicated that they had known a child they believed to be abused and of these, four-fifths (84% ± 5%) indicated that they took some action, most frequently reporting the abuse to Child Protective Services, talking to the parents about the abuse or how to parent, or calling the police or other law enforcement. The most frequently reported barriers were fear of retaliation by the abusive parent, being afraid of making the child's situation worse, and not wanting to intrude on family privacy. About nine-tenths of respondents believed that mental health services and drug and alcohol treatment, support services such as food banks and crisis nurseries, and parenting education classes were effective in preventing abuse. These results provide evidence that most people are willing to intervene to help an abused child. However, barriers to intervening (particularly fear of retaliation) exist and may account for some of the failures to report abuse.

child abuse maltreatment community health education prevention social responsibility 

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

REFERENCES

  1. 1.
    Sorenson, SB, Peterson, JG. Traumatic child death and documented maltreatment history, Los Angeles. Am J Public Health 1994; 84:623-627.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Rimsza, ME, Schackner, RA, Bowen, KA, Marshall, W. Can child deaths be prevented? The Arizona Child Fatality Review Program experience. Pediatrics 2002:110(1Pt1):e11.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Batson, CD. Altruism and prosocial behavior. In Gilbert, DT, Fiske, ST, Lindzey, G. (eds). The Handbook of Social Psychology, 4th edition. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1998, pp. 282-316.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Christy, CA, Voigt, H. Bystander responses to public episodes of child abuse. J Appl Social Psychol 1994; 24:824-847.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Manning, C, Cheers, B. Child abuse notification in a country town. Child Abuse Negl 1995;19: 387-397.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    National Committee for Prevention of Child Abuse. Public Attitudes and Actions Regarding Child Abuse and its Prevention. Chicago, IL: NCPCA, 1988.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Price, JH, Islam, R, Gruhler, J, Dove, L, Knowles, J, Stults, G (2001). Public perceptions of child abuse and neglect in a midwestern urban community. J Community Health 2001; 26: 271-284.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Zellman, GL, Fair, CC. Preventing and reporting abuse. In Myers, JEB, Berliner, L, Briere, J, Hendrix, CT, Jenny, C, Reid, TA (eds). The APSAC Handbook on Child Maltreatment, 2nd Edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2002, pp. 449-475.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    Olds, D, Eckenrode, J, Henderson, C, et al. Long-term effects of home visitation on maternal life course and child abuse and neglect: 15-year follow-up of a randomized trial. JAMA 1997; 278:637-643.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Bensley, LS, Van Enwyk, J, Simmons, KW. Self-reported childhood sexual and physical abuse and adult HIV-risk behaviors and heavy drinking. Am J Prev Med 2000;18:151-158.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    Gabarino, J, Eckenrode, J. Understanding Abusive Families. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1997.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Chadwick, DL. Community organization of services to deal with and end child abuse. In Myers, JEB, Berliner, L, Briere, J, Hendrix, CT, Jenny, C, Reid, TA (eds.), The APSAC Handbook on Child Maltreatment, 2nd edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2002, pp. 509-523.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Human Sciences Press, Inc. 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lillian Bensley
    • 1
  • Katrina Wynkoop Simmons
    • 2
  • Deborah Ruggles
    • 2
  • Tammy Putvin
    • 2
  • Cynthia Harris
    • 2
  • Melissa Allen
    • 2
  • Kathy Williams
    • 2
  1. 1.Washington State Department of Health, Office of EpidemiologyOlympia
  2. 2.Washington State Department of HealthOlympia

Personalised recommendations