CHANGES IN REPORTS AND INCIDENCE OF CHILD
ABUSE FOLLOWING NATURAL DISASTERS
Department of Sociology, University of Hawaii at Hilo, Hilo, HI, USA
BRENT C. MILLER
Department of Family and Human Development, Utah State University, Logan, UT, USA
E. HELEN BERRY
Department of Sociology, Utah State University, Logan, UT, USA
Objective: The aim of this research was to investigate if there is a higher incidence of child abuse following major natural
Methodology: Child abuse reports and substantiations were analyzed, by county, for 1 year before and after Hurricane
Hugo, the Loma Prieta Earthquake, and Hurricane Andrew. Counties were included if damage was widespread, the county
was part of a presidential disaster declaration, and if there was a stable data collection system in place.
Results: Based on analyses of numbers, rates, and proportions, child abuse reports were disproportionately higher in the
quarter and half year following two of the three disaster events (Hurricane Hugo and Loma Prieta Earthquake).
Conclusions: Most, but not all, of the evidence presented indicates that child abuse escalates after major disasters.
Conceptual and methodological issues need to be resolved to more conclusively answer the question about whether or not
child abuse increases in the wake of natural disasters. Replications of this research are needed based on more recent disaster
events.© 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd.
Key Words—Child abuse, Child maltreatment, Natural disasters, Earthquake, Hurricane.
EACH YEAR THOUSANDS of families in the United States are impacted by catastrophes that
leave homelessness, unemployment, injury and death in their wake. Disaster damage is usually
measured in terms of casualties, homes destroyed, jobs lost, and expected dollar cost of recovery.
Less documented and more difficult to measure, are the social, psychological, and family conse-
quences of catastrophic events. Numerous anecdotes in the popular press imply that there are post
disaster increases of domestic violence in general, and child abuse in particular. The question of
whether or not child abuse escalates following natural disasters apparently has not been examined
Submitted for publication February 24, 1999; final revision received December 21, 1999; accepted December 26, 1999.
Requests for reprints should be sent to Thom Curtis, Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, University of Hawaii
at Hilo, 200 W. Kawili St, Hilo, HI 96720.
Child Abuse & Neglect, Vol. 24, No. 9, pp. 1151–1162, 2000
Copyright © 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd.
Printed in the USA. All rights reserved
0145-2134/00/$–see front matter
Theories from the fields of sociology, psychology, and family science lead to the prediction that
an increase in family violence could be expected to follow catastrophic events. Societies develop
ways to reinforce acceptable behaviors and discourage antisocial behaviors. Thus, as individuals
mature, they learn to display acceptable social behaviors and inhibit those which are considered
antisocial. When events like natural disasters occur, social connections are disrupted, the ability to
sanction inappropriate behavior is reduced, and individuals are more likely to exhibit antisocial
conduct (Berkowitz, 1993).
Psychologists historically accepted aggression as an instinctual response in humans as it is in
other species (Eron, 1994). The frustration-aggression hypothesis asserts that frustration is always
expressed as some form of aggression, and that aggression always derives from frustration (Baron
& Richardson, 1994). According to the original theory (Dollard, Doob, Miller, Mowrer, & Sears,
1939), aggression can take either overt or covert forms, and can be directed at the source of the
frustration or redirected at some other person or object. The frustration-aggression hypothesis has
provided a framework for much psychological research on aggressive behaviors (Berkowitz, 1993,
1994; Baron & Richardson, 1994; Dill & Anderson, 1995). Many other variables have been
demonstrated to affect aggressive behavior, but Berkowitz (1994) pointed out that research into
these factors continues to find that frustration is a major contributor to aggressive behavior.
Most aggressive behavior toward children, whether physical, emotional or sexual, shares the
common factor of perceived or felt powerlessness by the perpetrator. Finkelhor (1983) described
child abuse as “acts carried out by abusers to compensate for their perceived helplessness or loss
of power” (p. 19). This perceived helplessness or loss of power, whatever its source, often
accompanies an individual’s feelings of frustration at not being able to attain goals. Bugental,
Mantyla, and Lewis (1989) reported that “parents who find themselves not only confronted with
real-world economic and social adversities but who also believe themselves to be helpless to
control life events [are] likely to be at exceptionally high risk for physical abuse” (p. 263).
Following a major natural disaster, when many of the usual processes and patterns of life have
been disrupted, it could be expected that individuals would feel increased stress, helplessness and
frustration (Miller & Kraus, 1994; Tobin & Ollenburger, 1996). Bugental and colleagues (1989)
predicted that “catastrophic life events are more likely to lead to ineffective coping strategies
among individuals who have a low sense of their own control” (p. 263). Children may become
targets of the aggressive behaviors which result from a parent’s frustration with events over which
they have no control (Greenwald, Bank, & Knutson, 1997).
Society prescribes roles for family members but power is distributed and maintained somewhat
differently from family to family (Farrington & Chertok, 1994; Kingsbury & Scanzoni, 1994).
When a social breakdown occurs, the social controls which both support and limit use of power in
families are compromised. Disasters often elicit an outpouring of organized helping, but stress
increases because existing social networks are disrupted (Kaniasty & Norris, 1995). Smith (1983)
pointed out that families with few resources prior to a disaster are less likely to recover well
afterward. Following a natural disaster it might be impossible to fulfill parental roles in the ways
traditionally expected, and parents might be more likely to use force in place of the social supports
which usually provide the foundation for both their roles and authority. Thus, under postdisaster
circumstances of increased stress and decreased social support, child maltreatment might be
expected to be more common.
In summary, anecdotal reports and social, psychological, and family theories all suggest that
family violence increases after major disruptive events. Is there an increase in reporting and/or
substantiation of child abuse following a natural disaster?
1152T. Curtis, B. C. Miller, and E. H. Berry
The Child Protective Service records of three jurisdictions which experienced natural disasters
during the past decade were examined in this research. Child abuse reports and substantiations were
gathered beginning 1 year prior to the disaster date and ending 1 year following the event. Subject
events were the Loma Prieta earthquake in the Bay Area of California, Hurricane Hugo in South
Carolina, and Hurricane Andrew in Louisiana. These events were recent enough so that the major
upswing in child abuse reporting of the early 1980s had already occurred prior to the beginning of
the research period, yet sufficient time had passed so that records were available following each
disaster. Data were analyzed to determine whether the hypothesized increase in child abuse could
be documented through examination of recorded data.
County Selection Criteria
Records of child abuse reports and investigations are gathered and kept by counties. Four criteria
were required for county data to be included in this study. First, the county must have experienced
a major natural disaster which resulted in catastrophic damage broad enough to affect the entire
county. In contrast to tornados and floods, earthquakes and hurricanes generally result in more
widespread damage. The second criterion for inclusion was that the target event occurred after the
mid-1980s, when definitions of abuse, which previously differed greatly from state to state, had
become somewhat more uniform. By studying disasters which took place after the mid-1980s, the
results of this study were less likely to be confounded by the rapidly changing definitions, laws, and
reporting procedures of the 1970s and 1980s. The third criterion was that there was at least 1 year
of postevent child abuse reports data available. Because there can be a long lag time between the
filing of a report and the availability of data, the natural disaster must have occurred at least 2 years
previous to the study. The fourth criterion for inclusion was that enough damage had occurred to
receive a presidential disaster declaration for that county. Based on these four criteria, counties
which were eligible for inclusion in this study experienced either a major earthquake or hurricane
between 1987 and 1992. While different numbers of counties in each state were affected by these
events, only those counties which were presidentially declared disaster areas were eligible for this
Child abuse data were requested from state child protective services agencies for each county (or
parish in Louisiana). Data were sought for three categories of child maltreatment data: physical
abuse, sexual abuse, and emotional abuse. Each of these categories of abuse involves an individual
in a position of relative power causing physical or psychic injury to a child. The total number of
monthly reports in each category were requested from each county, as well as the number of those
reports which were substantiated. Counts of county child abuse reports and substantiations were
obtained for a period beginning 1 year prior to the disaster date and ending 1 year following the
event. Because each state had a different data system, the procedures employed for data collection
varied from state to state.
Hurricane Hugo—South Carolina. South Carolina was the only state able to provide both report
and substantiation statistics for all three categories of abuse. Department of Social Services
furnished an individual computer printout for each county for each month requested (A. Parr & G.
Riley, personal communication, 1995). The 24 counties in South Carolina named in Presidential
Disaster Declarations following Hurricane Hugo (Sept. 22, 1989) are listed in the Appendix.
Child abuse in the wake of natural disasters 1153
Loma Prieta Earthquake—California. California child abuse data collection protocols gave
each child a separate report, so that families with multiple children had multiple reports.
Further, the California system did not include outcomes of particular cases. That is, data
regarding the number of cases reported are available from California, but information regard-
ing substantiation is not (J. Kimura, personal communication, 1995). This was confirmed by
the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect (1995). The 10 counties included in Federal
Disaster Declarations which followed the Loma Prieta Earthquake (Oct. 17, 1989) are listed in
Hurricane Andrew—Louisiana. The State of Louisiana Department of Social Services, Office of
Community Services, furnished data that included both victim and perpetrator information for
every report filed with the Department during the period requested. The state of Louisiana did not,
however, report data on mental or emotional abuse separately. Therefore, only physical and sexual
abuse reports and confirmations could be analyzed in Louisiana (T. Johnson & W. Fahr, personal
communication, 1995). The 36 Louisiana parishes that received Federal Disaster Declarations after
Hurricane Andrew (Aug. 26, 1992) are shown in the Appendix.
An interrupted time series quasi-experimental design was used to test the hypothesis that child
abuse increases following a natural disaster. Data from California, South Carolina, and Louisiana
were analyzed separately because of differences in reporting procedures. The number of reports and
substantiations of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse (where available) were aggregated in each
state from all counties that were federally declared disaster zones. This procedure allowed
replication of the study across three different states which experienced disasters at different times.
The predisaster counts within each site provided a baseline for comparison with the postdisaster
counts within that site.
Each state also had different policies for what types of abuse were reported. In order to conduct
parallel analyses across the three sites, it was necessary to transform the data into a uniform format.
Because much of this transformation required manual transcription from the source documents onto
spreadsheets, great care was taken to insure accuracy. Following the data transformations for each
state, a panel consisting of a faculty member and two doctoral candidates conducted random spot
checks to confirm data integrity. In each state the raw data months selected for verification were
followed through each step to confirm that the transformations had been accomplished without
A rule for placement of the calendar month in which the disaster occurred was considered
because, for analytic purposes, the disaster month could be the final month of the predisaster
year or the first month of the postdisaster year. If a substantial portion of the month had passed
prior to the event, it might be included in the predisaster year, but if the disaster happened
earlier in the month, it could become part of the postdisaster year. The month in which the
disaster took place provided a special problem in Louisiana because the number of reports that
month (August 1992) was substantially lower than any other month during the 2-year period.
Because the method chosen to analyze these data depended on the use of monthly proportions,
having an anomaly like this included as part of the data would distort the findings. It was
decided to exclude the month in which the disaster occurred in all states, thus comparing only
11 months in the pre- and postdisaster years. Quarterly and semiannual counts in each category
after the disaster were compared with those in the same calendar months during the year prior
to the disaster.
1154T. Curtis, B. C. Miller, and E. H. Berry
The method chosen for analysis must be able to control for “normal” increases so that they would
not be misinterpreted as being associated with the disaster. For example, in the 1989–90 fiscal year,
the period which included Hurricane Hugo and the Loma Prieta Earthquake, Wiese and Daro
(1995) reported a 5.1% annual increase in child abuse reports nationally. California showed a 3%
increase that year, and South Carolina was not reported due to changes in data collection
procedures. For the 1992–93 fiscal year, the period which included Hurricane Andrew, there was
a 3.2% increase nationally. Louisiana had an overall 3% increase that fiscal year. Seasonal
variations also need to be considered. The number of reports received by Child Protective Services
generally is lower when school is not in session and during November and December. These
patterns were visible in the predisaster data for all three sites. To control for seasonal and annual
variations, it was decided to analyze proportions rather than frequencies. If a particular month
accounted for 10% of a state’s annual reports in the predisaster year, that same month should
account for 10% of the reports in the postdisaster year. This would hold true regardless of the rate
of annual increase or decrease in reports.
The null hypothesis was that there was no difference pre- to postdisaster in the proportion of
reports for the period under consideration. In other words, if 25% of all predisaster reports occurred
in a given 3 month period, it was expected that 25% of all postdisaster reports also would take place
during the same 3 months of the following year.
A percentage difference between the expected and observed frequencies for each postdisaster
time period was computed. This percentage provides both the direction and size of the change
which took place. The expected value was calculated by multiplying the proportion of predisaster
reports for the given time period (quarter, semiannual) by the total number of reports in that
category of the postdisaster year. The percentages were calculated by dividing the total number of
postdisaster observed reports for that time period into the difference between the expected and
observed values and multiplying by 100.
The number, rate, and proportion of child abuse cases for several intervals before and after
Hurricane Hugo are shown in Table 1. Under the number of cases heading, note that physical abuse
is by far the largest category of abuse, and that the number of confirmations is usually less than a
quarter of the number reported. Reading down the difference column (column 3), it is clear that the
number of child abuse reports and confirmations was higher 3, 6, and 11 months after Hurricane
Hugo, compared to the same months in the preceding year. Because this could be partially due to
natural population increases, the center panel of Table 1 shows that child abuse rates (which are
adjusted for population changes) also were higher in the 3 and 6 month periods following Hurricane
Hugo, compared with the same periods before this disaster. In nearly every case, the difference
between child abuse rates before and after Hurricane Hugo were larger for reports than for
confirmations. Finally, the right most panel in Table 1 shows the proportions of child abuse cases
reported in the same 3 or 6 months before and after Hurricane Hugo. Again, the general pattern is
that a larger proportion of annual child abuse cases were observed in the 3 or 6 month time period
after than before the disaster. An unusual aspect of these results is that the right most percent
change column shows a larger percentage increase in child abuse confirmations relative to reports
in several cases.
Table 2 shows data for child abuse reports (confirmations were not available in California)
before and after the Loma Prieta earthquake. Again, physical abuse reports accounted for over half
of the total number of reports, and in nearly every case there were more child abuse reports in the
3, 6, or 11 months following the earthquake than in the same period before. Controlling for the
population base in the affected counties, rates of reported child abuse also were higher in all
Child abuse in the wake of natural disasters1155
categories of abuse after the earthquake, compared to the same months before. Finally, the right
most column shows that percentage change in the proportion of child abuse reported in the 3 or 6
months after the earthquake consistently was higher than in the same interval before the earthquake.
A different pattern of results was apparent for child abuse cases before and after Hurricane
Andrew, as shown in Table 3. The numbers, rates, and proportions of child abuse reports and
confirmations in affected counties were lower after the hurricane than before. More specifically, in
the 3 months after the hurricane there were 329 fewer cases of total abuse reported, in the 6 months
after there were 686 fewer, and in the 11 months after there were 1,131 fewer total child abuse
cases reported than in the same months preceding the hurricane. Similar declines in rates and
proportions of child abuse reporting were observed. The results with respect to Hurricane Andrew
in Louisiana are inconsistent with the theoretical expectations, and with the data from the other two
Table 1. Number, Rate, and Proportion of Child Abuse Cases Before and After Hurricane Hugo
Proportions of Total Cases for
BeforeAfterDiff. BeforeAfter Diff.BeforeAfterDiff. % Chg
aPer 100,000 total population.
1156T. Curtis, B. C. Miller, and E. H. Berry
The findings for each state were sufficiently different that there is not yet a conclusive answer
to the research question: “does child abuse increase in the wake of natural disasters?” In South
Carolina following Hurricane Hugo, and in California after the Loma Prieta Earthquake, the answer
is a tentative “yes,” but for Hurricane Andrew in Louisiana, the findings indicate that the answer
Changes in reporting and/or investigation procedures or other methodological problems could
play a role in why child abuse reports or substantiations do or do not increase following a natural
disaster. On one hand, the disruption and recovery efforts which follow a disaster may contribute
to interruptions of social services including child abuse reporting and investigations. On the other
hand, systemic changes unrelated to the disaster may contribute to a global alteration of reporting,
investigation, or data collection procedures.
There also could be substantive explanations for differing results. The emotional effect of
disasters on children might pose additional problems and increase stress for parents that could
trigger abusive reactions. The impact of a disaster on children is generally thought to parallel the
consequences for older people (Warheit, Zimmerman, Khoury, Vega, & Gil, 1996), but some
children are likely to exhibit postdisaster reactions that are misunderstood or problematic for
parents (Meyers, 1994). Children’s excessive anxieties and less mature behaviors (e.g., clinging,
bed wetting, physical complaints) contribute to the stresses experienced by parents already
attempting to deal with other disaster related problems.
Following a disaster, many different systems experience disruption at several different levels.
First, the child protective case workers experience most of the same stresses as does the general
population, and they might be victims of the disaster themselves. While their own homes and
families are in jeopardy, they are unlikely to be able to work with the same proficiency they did
before the disaster. Second, the child protection infrastructure is likely to be interrupted by natural
disasters. Support or supervisory personnel might not be able to bolster the efforts of caseworkers
as they do normally. Third, the physical environment on which caseworkers depend might be
compromised. Roads could be impassable, telephones might not work, the office might be
Table 2. Number, Rate, and Proportion of Child Abuse ReportsaBefore and After the Loma Prieta Earthquake
Proportions of Total Cases for
Before AfterDiff.BeforeAfterDiff.BeforeAfterDiff.% Chg
aOnly reports of child abuse were analyzed in California because confirmation or substantiation data were not available.
bPer 100,000 total population.
Child abuse in the wake of natural disasters1157
destroyed or records might be inaccessible. Families which the caseworkers are supporting or
investigating might have lost their homes and be relocated into shelters or outside of the area.
Witnesses might be unable to contact CPS to report child abuse they have seen, or child neglect or
maltreatment might seem less serious to the general public following the devastation caused by the
natural disaster. All of these factors could contribute to an inaccurate picture of the extent to which
child maltreatment actually changes following natural disasters.
interventions attempted following the disaster. Government agencies are becoming more aware of the
workers. Officials in Louisiana described efforts in some of the parishes to provide counseling for
victims. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides funding directly to local
mental health providers for post disaster recovery services and program development.
Interviews with CPS administrators and field workers at each site showed a number of
similarities in experiences across the three disasters as well as a few important differences. Each
interviewee described the difficulties faced by their agency due to the impact of the disaster on
employees. Staff members were separated from relatives, some lost their homes, and in some cases
Table 3. Number, Rate, and Proportion of Child Abuse Cases Before and After Hurricane Andrew
Proportions of Total Cases for
BeforeAfter Diff. BeforeAfterDiff.Before After Diff. % Chg
aPer 100,000 total population.
1158T. Curtis, B. C. Miller, and E. H. Berry
coworkers had died in the disaster. CPS workers often were assigned to other recovery duties in
evacuation shelters or with other human services programs providing relief assistance. CPS
functions did not return to normal until after the initial stages of response and recovery. Even then,
the workers often were hampered by damage to roads and other infrastructure.
Another common theme in the interviews was the impression that maltreatment increased as
frustration with the slow pace of recovery mounted among the victims. This was especially true
among those who had the fewest economic resources prior to the disaster. Promises made in the
immediate wake of the disaster often were slow in being fulfilled. Cramped housing, limited
transportation, and decreased employment opportunities in the short term all contributed to the
According to the interviewees, experience with previous disasters also might contribute to the
manner in which communities responded. CPS workers in Louisiana pointed to the number of times
that state has been impacted by hurricanes. The population knew what to expect and their reactions
were predictable. Walter Fahr of the Louisiana Department of Social Services hypothesized that
child abuse would not increase in Louisiana because people there are accustomed to hurricanes. His
coworker, Topper Johnson, expressed similar sentiments, “Of course in Louisiana we’ve had a lot
of hurricanes . . . and I think families get mobilized really quickly here to help their neighbors”
(Interview, July 10, 1995).
South Carolina also has experienced hurricanes in the past, but they have been less frequent than
in Louisiana. By comparison, the San Francisco Bay Area section of the San Andreas fault was
relatively quiet between the great San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 and the Loma Prieta
Earthquake (Yanev, 1991). It is possible that living in an area which frequently experiences a
particular type of disaster may produce coping methods that reduce stress.
CONCLUSIONS AND IMPLICATIONS
Based on these data, it appears that child abuse increases after some, but not all natural disasters.
Because results of the study were mixed and there is not a consistent pattern of child abuse in the
wake of natural disasters, this study needs to be replicated using data from other, especially more
recent, disasters. Records data might be more uniform and consistent now as a result of reporting
procedures becoming more institutionalized and being more stable. An excellent opportunity exists,
for example, to analyze child abuse reports from the periods before and after the 1994 Northridge
Earthquake in Southern California. The research design employed here, based simply on within
county comparisons before and after disasters, also could be strengthened by adding an external
comparison group. A tighter between-subjects comparison group, better reflecting local and
regional influences, might consist of counties in the same state which were not included in a
Another methodological complication is population change associated with the disaster. For
example, some researchers (Smith & McCarty, 1996) have suggested that out-migration is common
when disasters destroy both housing and businesses. They found that nearly 40,000 left Dade
County, Florida as a direct result of Hurricane Andrew. Thus, it is most appropriate to compare
rates of abuse based on the closest possible estimates of population. Population estimates provided
by the United States Census Bureau are made effective July 1 of each year. For the 1989 disasters
studied here, abuse rates were based on the July 1, 1989 estimate for the affected counties during
that year. For the 1992 Hurricane Andrew abuse rates, population estimates for July 1, 1992 were
used. To control for the potential effect of out-migration for the 1989 disasters, post disaster abuse
rates were computed using the census statistics for 1990, and with population estimates for 1993
for Hurricane Andrew. Calculating rates in this way should control for any influence of out-
migration after the disasters.
Child abuse in the wake of natural disasters 1159
Other methodologies also need to be developed that do not depend on official reports and
investigations. It is believed that most child abuse goes unreported. If this is true during normal
conditions, unreported abuse may be higher following disasters because of greater obstacles to both
reporting and investigation. A methodology based on population sampling and interviews might
provide more accurate results, and an anonymous self report instrument could provide useful
information. Police or court documents also might provide another way of addressing the question
of family violence following disasters. Hospital emergency room records also might be used to
track trends in child abuse or domestic violence injuries before and after catastrophes.
A methodology for more accurately identifying the most severely impacted areas also could be
developed. Officials in both Louisiana and South Carolina noted that some counties which
experienced relatively little impact from the hurricanes were included in Presidential Disaster
Declarations. These less affected counties might be added days or even weeks after the initial
disaster declaration for political reasons. If data from counties with little damage are included in
analyses of child abuse, the effects of the disaster would be understated. Future research may
contribute a more accurate picture of disaster effects if only the counties which receive the initial
disaster declarations, or which meet a specific threshold for damage, were included as impacted
Research into how CPS agencies and their services are affected by disasters also would be
valuable. It is unknown what changes CPS workers experience after disasters; if procedures or
infrastructure change, case investigation and data collection could be affected. Qualitative research
would be helpful to determine how protocols for investigation are followed in the wake of disasters,
or if cases slip through the system because of the stress on both the public and the CPS workers.
In summary, for two of three catastrophic events studied, evidence was found that child abuse
increases following natural disasters. While this research has not provided a definite answer
regarding child abuse following catastrophes, it offers conceptual and methodological starting
points for expanding future research in this area. Further research is needed to more conclusively
determine the effect of natural disasters on child abuse reports and to identify the variables which
contribute to changes in child abuse reporting in the wake of natural disasters. Such research could
be valuable to develop interventions which might reduce abusive behavior resulting from catas-
Acknowledgement—Appreciation is expressed to agency professionals in the state Departments of Social Services who
helped to make child abuse data available from their respective states: Grace Riley and Althea Parr in South Carolina; Julie
Kimura in California; and T. Johnson and W. Fahr in Louisiana.
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Yanev, P. I. (1991). Peace of mind in earthquake country. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books.
Objectifs: Le but de cette recherche a consiste ´ a de ´montrer s’il y a une incidence plus e ´levee ´e de se ´vices a ` l’e ´gard des enfant
a ` la suite de castastrophes naturelles.
Me´thode: Les plaintes pour abus sexuels avec les preuves apporte ´es ont e ´te ´ analyse ´es par comte ´ durant un an avant et apre `s
le cyclone Hugo, le tremblement de terre de Loma Prieta, et l’ouragan Andrew. Les comte ´s ont e ´te ´ pris en conside ´ration
lorsque les dommages e ´taient e ´tendus, lorsque le comte ´ avait fait l’objet d’une de ´claration pre ´sidentielle et lorsqu’ un
syste `me stable de recueil des donne ´es svait e ´te ´ mis en place.
Re´sultats: Sur la base de l’analyse des nombres, taux et proportions, les plaintes pour abus sexuels furent exceptionnel-
lement e ´lve ´s durant le quart et la moitie ´ de l’anne ´e sulvant deux des trois catastrophes (ouragan Hugo et tremblement de
terre de Loma Prieta).
Conclusions: La plupart mais pas toutes les observations pre ´sente ´es indiquent que les abus sexuels sur les enfants montent
en fle `che apre ´s les catastrophes majeures. Des proble `mes conceptuels et me ´thodeologiques doivent e ˆtre re ´solus pour
re ´ppondre mieux a ` la question si oui ou non les abus augmentent lorsque surviennent des catrostrophes naturelles. On
devrait refaire cette recherche sur des e ´ve ´nements plus re ´cents.
Objetivo: El objetivo de esta investigacio ´n fue explorar si hay una mayor incidencia del maltrato infantil tras la ocurrencia
de gandes desastres naturales.
Child abuse in the wake of natural disasters1161
Metodologı ´a: Se analizaron por condados las notificaciones y verificaciones de maltrato infantil un an ˜o antes y despue ´s del
huraca ´n Hugo, el terremoto de Loma Prieta, y el huraca ´n Andrew. Se incluyeron los condados en los que el dan ˜o habı ´a sido
amplio, el condado habı ´a sido declarado como desastre nacional por el presidente, y se habı ´a mantenido un registro de datos
Resultados: Segu ´n los ana ´lisis de nu ´meros, tasas y porcentajes, las notificaciones de maltrato infantil fueron despropor-
cionadamente ma ´s altas en los tres meses y seis meses posteriores a dos de los tres desastres naturales estudiados (huraca ´n
Hugo y terremoto de Loma Prieta).
Conclusiones: La mayor parte de los datos de este estudio, aunque no todos, indican que el maltrato infantil aumenta tras
desastres importantes. Es preciso resolver algunas cuestiones conceptuales y metodolo ´gicas para responder de manera ma ´s
concluyente a la pregunta de si el maltrato infantil aumenta como consecuencia de los desastres naturales. Es necesario
replicar esta investigacio ´n con desastres naturales ma ´s recientes.
Counties given Presidential disaster declarations after selected natural disasters
Sources: Interagency Hazard Assessment/Mitigation Teams 1989, 1992; State/Federal Hazard Mitigation Survey Team,
1990; United States Bureau of the Census, 1992a, 1992b, 1992c.
1162T. Curtis, B. C. Miller, and E. H. Berry