Income Inequality and Child Maltreatment in the United States

PEDIATRICS (Impact Factor: 5.47). 02/2014; 133(3). DOI: 10.1542/peds.2013-1707
Source: PubMed


To examine the relation between county-level income inequality and rates of child maltreatment.
Data on substantiated reports of child abuse and neglect from 2005 to 2009 were obtained from the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System. County-level data on income inequality and children in poverty were obtained from the American Community Survey. Data for additional control variables were obtained from the American Community Survey and the Health Resources and Services Administration Area Resource File. The Gini coefficient was used as the measure of income inequality. Generalized additive models were estimated to explore linear and nonlinear relations among income inequality, poverty, and child maltreatment. In all models, state was included as a fixed effect to control for state-level differences in victim rates.
Considerable variation in income inequality and child maltreatment rates was found across the 3142 US counties. Income inequality, as well as child poverty rate, was positively and significantly correlated with child maltreatment rates at the county level. Controlling for child poverty, demographic and economic control variables, and state-level variation in maltreatment rates, there was a significant linear effect of inequality on child maltreatment rates (P < .0001). This effect was stronger for counties with moderate to high levels of child poverty.
Higher income inequality across US counties was significantly associated with higher county-level rates of child maltreatment. The findings contribute to the growing literature linking greater income inequality to a range of poor health and well-being outcomes in infants and children.

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    • "Other countries in the UK do not name the focus of their work as 'troubled' families and have a stronger emphasis on reducing poverty. Increased high-profile popular (Minton Beddoes 2012; Kerry 2014) and academic debate in a number of disciplines (Pickett and Wilkinson 2007; Eckenrode et al. 2014) about the pernicious effects of inequality are of global concern. There is also well-documented research about the need to understand and respond to families as a whole more effectively (Kendall, Rodger, and Palmer 2010). "
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    ABSTRACT: This article outlines and critiques a key area of contemporary social policy in England: the Troubled Families Programme, launched in 2011. This is a national programme which aims to ‘turn around’ the lives of the 120,000 most troubled families in England by 2015. Troubled families are characterised as those who ‘have’ problems and ‘cause’ problems to those around them. Troubled Families can be viewed as a ‘wicked problem’ in the sense that the issues surrounding these families tend to be reconceptualised regularly and re-solved differently, depending on changes in government. The article critically reviews the evidence base for the overall approach of the programme and the way the scale and nature of the issue is understood. It debates whether this is a case of evidence-based policy or policy-based evidence. Early indications are that behavioural change is likely to be achieved in some families (increased school attendance, reductions in anti-social behaviour and crime), but that addressing worklessness (a key focus of the programme) presents the biggest challenge. An even bigger challenge is helping families to find work that will move them out of poverty. The article draws on ongoing research in two contrasting local authorities implementing the programme.
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    • "Finally, given the fact that poverty is a distal environmental risk factor, more proximal measures such as stressful life events (SLE) are likely to mediate its impact (Kim et al, 2013). Moreover, additional pathways have to be considered when investigating the specific effect of poverty on externalizing psychopathology and brain morphology such as exposure to stressful life events (Flouri et al, 2013), smoking during pregnancy (Holz et al, 2014), childhood maltreatment (Kunitz et al, 1998) and maternal support (Luby et al, 2013), all of which being increased in poor families (Eiden et al, 2013; Kim et al, 2013; Eckenrode et al, 2014). "
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    ABSTRACT: Converging evidence has highlighted the association between poverty and conduct disorder (CD) without specifying neurobiological pathways. Neuroimaging research has emphasized structural and functional alterations in the orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) as one key mechanism underlying this disorder. The present study aimed to clarify the long-term influence of early poverty on OFC volume and its association with CD symptoms in healthy participants of an epidemiological cohort study followed since birth. At age 25 years, voxel-based morphometry was applied to study brain volume differences. Poverty [0=non-exposed (N=134), 1=exposed (N=33)] and smoking during pregnancy were determined using a standardized parent interview, and information on maternal responsiveness was derived from videotaped mother-infant interactions at the age of 3 months. CD symptoms were assessed by diagnostic interview from 8-19 years of age. Information on life stress was acquired at each assessment and childhood maltreatment was measured using retrospective self-report at the age of 23 years. Analyses were adjusted for sex, parental psychopathology and delinquency, obstetric adversity, parental education and current poverty. Individuals exposed to early-life poverty exhibited a lower OFC volume and more CD symptoms. Moreover, we replicated previous findings of increased CD symptoms as a consequence of childhood poverty. This effect proved statistically mediated by OFC volume and exposure to life stress and smoking during pregnancy, but not by childhood maltreatment and maternal responsiveness. These findings underline the importance of studying the impact of early-life adversity on brain alterations and highlight the need for programs to decrease income-related disparities.Neuropsychopharmacology accepted article preview online, 15 October 2014. doi:10.1038/npp.2014.277.
    Neuropsychopharmacology: official publication of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology 10/2014; 40(4). DOI:10.1038/npp.2014.277 · 7.05 Impact Factor
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    • "Child welfare systems internationally exhibit very large inequalities in a variety of respects (Bilson et al. 2013; Bywaters 2013; Bywaters et al. 2014; Eckenrode et al. 2014). For example, child protection plan (CPP) or registration rates varied between the four countries of UK from 24.7 per 10 000 children to 46.8 per 10 000 in 2013 1 . "
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    ABSTRACT: Child welfare systems internationally exhibit very large inequalities in a variety of dimensions of practice, for example, in rates of child protection plans or registrations and out-of-home care. Previous research in the midlands region of England (Bywaters; Bywaters et al.) has detailed key aspects of the relationship between levels of neighbourhood deprivation and intervention rates. This paper reports further evidence from the study examining the intersection of deprivation with aspects of identity: gender, disability, ethnicity and age. Key findings include a decreasing gender gap and a decreasing proportion of children in need reported to be disabled as deprivation increases. The data challenge the perception that black children are more likely than white to be in out-of-home care, a finding that only holds if the much higher level of deprivation among black children is not taken into account. Similarly, after controlling for deprivation and age, Asian children were found to be up to six times less likely to be in out-of-home care. The study requires replication and extension in order that observed inequalities are tested and explained. Urgent ethical, research, policy and practice issues are raised about child welfare systems.
    Child & Family Social Work 08/2014; DOI:10.1111/cfs.12161 · 0.93 Impact Factor
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