Journal Issue: Protecting Children from Abuse and Neglect Volume 8 Number 1 Spring 1998
Specific, accurate understanding of the extent of maltreatment in American society, the nature of the maltreatment that occurs, and the consequences it has for children are crucial to inform policies regarding child protection and to guide the design of prevention and treatment programs. This article examines how child abuse and neglect are defined and discusses the controversies that surround that definition, which attracts attention because it justifies government intervention to stop actions by parents or caregivers that seriously harm children. The article also presents statistics indicating how widespread maltreatment is, reviews research on the characteristics of families that are more prone to abuse or neglect, and summarizes knowledge about the impact of maltreatment on children. Finally, it mentions the efforts of public child protective services agencies to responsibly ration calls on their limited resources by using risk-assessment approaches to target scarce services to the children who need them the most.