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Economic inequality and child maltreatment

By David Rothwell

On December 15, 2022 I was invited to host a webinar organized by the International Society for the Prevention of Child Abuse & Neglect. With Andreas Jud, we made the case for the importance of studying economic inequality, defined economic economic inequality, shared takeaways from the special issue of Child Abuse & Neglect, and discuss practice implications. The issue is open access until May 2023. In the dialogue that followed, I noted a couple points that require future attention.

First, as I think about the mechanisms that link the macro context (inequality) to micro outcomes (child abuse), I turn to family stress. And, perhaps using the family stress model to investigate the disparate relationships we see between poverty and inequality. More specifically, how is family stress brought on by family poverty different from family stress experienced in the context of high economic inequality. These likely have different functions on child welfare outcomes.

Second, I have not seen enough research on what happens when inequality flattens or even goes down. Several of the papers in the special issue use longitudinal designs to investigate how inequality shapes child welfare. Will this line of work show declining child abuse and neglect when inequality flattens or declines?

Slides from the talk are here.

The video of the webinar is here.

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