Poverty and child abuse and neglect

The latest material added to the Australian Institute of Family Studies library database is displayed, up to a maximum of 30 items. Where available online, a link to the document is provided. Many items can be borrowed from the Institute's library via the Interlibrary loan system.

See more resources on Poverty and child abuse and neglect in the AIFS library catalogue

The children's report: Australia's NGO coalition report to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child

Irani F
Sydney, N.S.W. : Australian Child Rights Taskforce, UNICEF Australia, 2018.
This report assesses Australia's progress in protecting children and their rights. It reviews how well Australia is meeting its obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, drawing on the available research, and makes recommendations for improvement against each of the provisions of the Convention. Sections include: General measures of implementation; General principles; Civil rights and freedoms; Violence against children; Family environment and alternative care; Disability, health and welfare; Special protection measures; Sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography; and Involvement of children in armed conflict. A particular feature of this report is the inclusion of children and young people's views. Consultations were held with 527 children, young people, and youth from around Australia, and their quotes are included throughout the report. Though Australia ratified the Convention in 1990, there remains a critical absence of well-resourced, strategic and coordinated measures to implement and protect children's rights, and - despite Australia's relative economic prosperity, progress has regressed in areas of critical importance since the last review in 2012. Particular areas of concern are rates of abuse in familial and institutional settings, the care asylum seeker and refugee children, and the persistent, systemic, and entrenched disadvantage experienced by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children.

Children's headline indicators

Australian Institute of Health and Welfare
Canberra : Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, 2018.
This website collates the latest information on how Australia's children are faring, presented as interactive graphs and tables. Children's welfare is measured against the Children's Headline Indicators - 19 priority measures of: smoking during pregnancy, infant mortality, birthweight, breastfeeding, immunisation, overweight and obesity, dental health, social and emotional wellbeing, injuries, attending early childhood education programs, transition to primary school in terms of developmental vulnerability, attendance at primary school, literacy and numeracy, teenage births, family economic situation, shelter, child abuse and neglect, social and emotional wellbeing, and family social network.

A study of the use of Section 106a of the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998 in the New South Wales Children's Court.

Ainsworth F and Hansen P
Children Australia v. 42 no. 3 Sep 2017: 198-204
In 2006, the law was amended in New South Wales to say that if a child has previously been removed from parental care and not restored to the parents, then that is evidence that any subsequent child born to these parents is in need of care and protection and can be subject to removal. The parents must then rebut this evidence if they are to recover or retain custody of the new born child. This amendment is covered by section 106A of the Children and Young Persons (Care and Protection) Act 1998. This article reviews the use of this amendment in the Children's Court, with an analysis of cases finalised across 3 of the courts from July to December 2013. It reviews legal outcomes and possible influencing factors including date of removal, place of removal, number of children previously removed, reliance on section 106A, and parents' age, ethnicity and Indigenous status, occupation and income source, disability and mental health, substance abuse, domestic violence, criminal history, and homelessness. The only significant finding was that if section 106A was cited in Court documents, then restoration of a child to the family is less likely.

The first thousand days: an evidence paper

Moore T, Arefadib N, Deery A and West S
Parkville, Vic. : Centre for Community Child Health, Royal Children's Hospital Melbourne, 2017.
This paper synthesises current Australian and international evidence on the biological, social, global, and environmental influences on child development. It examines the impact of early experiences in the 'first thousand days' on all aspects of development and functioning, including physical health and wellbeing, mental health, social functioning, and cognitive development, as well as the underlying determinants of health. Experts have long been aware that the period from conception to age 2 is an important period of development, but researchers have only recently started to unlock the processes by which genes, experiences, and environments interact to influence development. This paper is part of the 'Strong Foundations: Getting it Right in the First 1000 Days' collaborative project.

Risk factors for child maltreatment in an Australian population-based birth cohort.

Doidge J, Higgins D, Delfabbro P and Segal L
Child Abuse and Neglect v. 64 Feb 2017: 47-60
This article investigates a range of possible child, parent and family risk factors for child maltreatment, drawing on a population-based birth cohort, the Australian Temperament Project (ATP). The ATP has followed 2,443 young people in Victoria from birth to age 27 years. Though incidence of physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, neglect and witnessing of domestic violence was collected retrospectively in early adulthood, potential risk factors have been collected since birth. The study finds that higher levels of economic disadvantage, poor parental mental health and substance use, and social instability were strongly associated with increased risk of child maltreatment. Overall, nine independent risk factors were identified, highlighting the social groups in Australia who are most vulnerable to child maltreatment.

Economic predictors of child maltreatment in an Australian population-based birth cohort.

Doidge J, Higgins D, Delfabbro P, Edwards B, Vassallo S, Toumbourou J and Segal L
Children and Youth Services Review v. 72 Jan 2017: 14-25
The association between poverty and child maltreatment has long been known, but the mechanisms involved are little understood. This article investigates this association further, with estimates and retrospective reports using data from the Australian Temperament Project - a longitudinal study of 2443 children and their parents in Victoria, with the children now aged 23-24 years old. It compares the association of childhood economic factors - including parental education, occupation, and unemployment; type of housing; and retrospective perception of poverty - with retrospective reports of different types of child maltreatment. The article also estimates how much child maltreatment is theoretically preventable by addressing childhood economic disadvantage, and the implications for prevention efforts.

The relationship between poverty, child abuse and neglect: an evidence review

Bywaters P
York U.K. : Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 2016.
"This report identifies and discusses evidence about to key aspects of the relationship between poverty and child abuse and neglect: the impact of poverty on a child's chance of being abused or neglected and the impact on adult poverty of abuse or neglect in childhood. It explores the economic costs of child abuse and neglect and outlines broad policy implications, with a particular focus on the UK."

CRC25: Australian child rights progress report : a report on 25 years of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in Australia

Australian Child Rights Taskforce
Australia : Australian Child Rights Taskforce, 2016.
The 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) calls on governments to take responsibility to build a better world for children. This report marks 25 years since Australia ratified the convention, and highlights our progress, the entrenched issues that remain, and even direct breaches of the Convention. It reviews children's rights and outcomes in the areas of: poverty and homelessness, out of home care, disability, adoption, early education and care, abuse and neglect, bullying, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, children from Culturally and Linguistically Diverse backgrounds and refugees, LGBTI children and young people, access to health care and health status, access to justice and the criminal justice system, identity, participation, citizenship, and birth and name registration. Recommendations for state, territory, and Commonwealth governments are also included. Note, the Australian Child Rights Taskforce is Australia?s peak child rights network, made up of more than 100 organisations, and is co-convened by UNICEF Australia and the National Children's and Youth Law Centre (NCYLC).

Evaluation of the Sustaining NSW Families program: final report

KPMG (Australia), NSW Kids and Families
North Sydney, N.S.W. : NSW Kids and Families, 2015.
The Sustaining NSW Families (SNF) Program is a nurse-led sustained health home visiting program in New South Wales that commences in pregnancy and continues until the child's second birthday. It targets families who reside in areas of low socio-economic status who are moderately vulnerable and who have associated psychosocial distress; that is, medium risk families who do not have complex problems. The program is designed as a prevention program to improve child outcomes for children who may be at risk of compromised development, and employs other allied health professionals to provide guidance and participate in case reviews. The program commenced in 2010 and now operates in five sites across the state. This evaluation study was commissioned to assess the implementation, impacts, outcomes, and costs/benefits of the program. As part of this, the evaluation also investigated whether optimal participation was achieved and who within the target client group received the most benefit from the service. This report presents the findings and recommendations of the evaluation.

The effectiveness of child protection income management in Australia

Parkinson S
Adelaide, S. Aust. : Government of South Australia, 2015.
The Child Protection Systems Royal Commission was established in August 2014 to investigate the adequacy of the child protection system in South Australia. To assist its work, this report was commissioned to review the evidence on the effectiveness of child protection income management and whether such schemes may have unintended consequences for families. The review largely discusses Australian research. Child Protection Income Management is one of three schemes of quarantining welfare payments in Australia, and can be recommended by child protection staff if they believe it will benefit at-risk children and address financial vulnerability.

Who kills children? Re-examining the evidence.

Pritchard C, Davey J and Williams R
British Journal of Social Work v. 43 no. 7 Oct 2013: 1403-1438
To help improve prevent child homicide, recent research studies have examined the levels of risk of different type of assailants. This new article re-examines the evidence to investigate what was common to the assailants instead, focusing on poverty. It compares child mortality, child abuse, and poverty data from 19 countries including Australia, to investigate whether all-causes-of-death and child abuse-related deaths are related to poverty. It then re-evaluates a decade of cases of child homicide assailants in the United Kingdom to determine any differential risks of killing a child. The analysis finds that child mortality and poverty are strongly correlated but child- abuse-related deaths are not. Child homicide by family members are extremely rare, but three distinct assailant categories can be identified: mentally ill parents, mothers with a child on the Child Protection Register, and men with previous convictions for violence. Though these categories are essentially psycho-criminological rather than socio-economic, poverty worsens most situations.

Entering out-of-home care during childhood : cumulative incidence study of population groups in two developed countries.

O'Donnell M, Maclean M, Brownell M, Gilbert R and Sims S
13th Australasian Conference on Child Abuse and Neglect : protecting children - new solutions to old problems : 10-13 November 2013. Canberra, A.C.T. : Australian Institute of Criminology, 2013: 28p
This presentation examined and compared the cumulative incidence of out of home care for cohorts of children over time in two countries, using linked longitudinal population level data from the Western Australian Departments of Health and Child Protection and from Population Health Research Data in Manitoba, Canada. The research aimed to determine the variation between countries: in the age when children first enter out of home care, proportion of children affected, how patterns have changed over time, and demographic and parental risk factors for entry. This document contains the slides shown during the presentation, which feature summary text and charts.

Social transfers and child protection

Barrientos A, Byrne J, Villa J and Pena P
Florence, Italy : UNICEF Office of Research, 2013.
The main objective of social transfers is to address poverty and deprivation: whether they can also contribute to improved child protection outcomes will depend on the extent to which poverty plays a role in child abuse, violence and exploitation. This paper examines the known effects of social transfers on child protection risks and outcomes in low- and middle-income countries. It also discusses how the design and implementation of social transfers can maximise positive impact.

Journey's Home research report no. 2: findings from Waves 1 and 2

Chigavazira A, Johnson G, Moschion J, Scutella R, Moschion J, Tseng Y and Wooden M
Parkville, Vic. : Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, University of Melbourne, 2013.
The Journeys Home longitudinal study aims to investigate the factors affecting housing stability and the causes and consequences of homelessness. It will follow a national sample of people experiencing high levels of housing insecurity and homelessness in Australia. Comparing data the first two waves of the study, from 2011 and 2012, this report examines transitions in to and out of homelessness and whether there is any early evidence on risk or protective factors associated with certain homeless transitions.

Does child abuse and neglect explain the overrepresentation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander young people in youth detention? Findings from a birth cohort study.

Doolan I, Najman J, Mills R, Cherney A and Strathearn L
Child Abuse and Neglect v. 37 no. 5 May 2013: 303-309
This article investigates whether the overrepresentation of Indigenous young people in youth detention in Australia can be explained by a background of child abuse, child neglect, and family disadvantage. It compares data from the Mater-University of Queensland Study of Pregnancy, a longitudinal study in Queensland, with data from social services, to compare Indigenous and non-Indigenous young people's experience of abuse, family disadvantage, and involvement with the criminal justice system.

Economic conditions and child abuse

Lindo J, Schaller J and Hansen B
Bonn, Germany : IZA, 2013.
"Although a huge literature spanning several disciplines documents an association between poverty and child abuse, researchers have not found persuasive evidence that economic downturns increase abuse, despite their impacts on family income. In this paper, we address this seeming contradiction. Using county-level child abuse data spanning 1996 to 2009 from the California Department of Justice, we estimate the extent to which a county's reported abuse rate diverges from its trend when its economic conditions diverge from trend, controlling for statewide annual shocks. The results of this analysis indicate that overall measures of economic conditions are not strongly related to rates of abuse. However, focusing on overall measures of economic conditions masks strong opposing effects of economic conditions facing males and females: male layoffs increase rates of abuse whereas female layoffs reduce rates of abuse. These results are consistent with a theoretical framework that builds on family-time-use models and emphasizes differential risks of abuse associated with a child's time spent with different caregivers."

Family stressors and children's outcomes

Jones E, Gutman L and Platt L
London : Dept. of Education, c2013.
This report investigates the impact of family stresses and resources on child outcomes, using two longitudinal studies from Great Britain. First, it examines what family factors, stresses, and parental behaviours are associated with children's outcomes at age seven. It then examines whether stressful life events experienced at different periods of childhood are associated with poor outcomes in adolescence. Data is taken from the Millennium Cohort Study and the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC). Child outcomes include verbal skills, non-verbal skills, maths skills, school readiness, and behavioural difficulties, and adolescent outcomes include school results at ages 14 and 16 and emotional, behavioural, social, and school wellbeing at age 13. Risk and protective factors assessed include child illness or disability, family size, family poverty, parent education and literacy skills, parent smoking or drug use, social support, benefits receipt, home ownership, peer contact, and neighbourhood safety. Stressful life events assessed include bereavement, child abuse, homelessness, relocation, and divorce.

Journey's Home research report no. 1: Wave 1 findings

Scutella R, Johnson G, Moschion J, Tseng Y and Wooden M
Parkville, Vic. : Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, University of Melbourne, 2012.
The Journeys Home longitudinal study aims to investigate the factors affecting housing stability and the causes and consequences of homelessness. It will follow a national sample of people experiencing high levels of housing insecurity and homelessness in Australia. This report presents key findings from the first wave of the study, which was conducted with 1,682 people in late 2011. It reports on the characteristics of study participants, their rates of homelessness, and the relationship between a range of risk and protective factors commonly associated with homelessness and respondents actual homeless experiences.

Economic determinants and consequences of child maltreatment

Berger L and Waldfogel J
Paris, France : Directorate for Employment, Labour and Social Affairs, OECD, 2011.
"Substantial numbers of children in the advanced industrialized countries experience child abuse and neglect each year, resulting in considerable social, emotional, and economic costs to both the children themselves and to their societies as a whole. Yet, whereas scholars and policymakers have grown increasingly concerned with promoting child well-being, particularly among low income children, limited attention has been paid to child maltreatment. This paper reviews the existing research on the economic determinants and consequences of child abuse and neglect, drawing on theoretical and empirical studies from a wide range of disciplines. We first provide background information about child maltreatment in advanced industrialized countries. Next, we present current theory and empirical evidence regarding links between low income and child maltreatment. We then turn to the evidence on the long-term consequences of maltreatment. Finally, we conclude with a brief discussion of interventions to prevent abuse and neglect. We argue that results from a large number of studies clearly imply that economic resources play an important role in influencing risk for child abuse and (particularly) child neglect, although conclusive causal evidence has thus far been elusive. Furthermore, existing evidence that child abuse and neglect impose tremendous long-term costs both to victims and to society as a whole justifies heightened efforts to reduce child maltreatment. Finally, although a few proven programs exist, the evidence base with regard to effective policies and programs for preventing maltreatment is generally quite weak."

Longitudinal analysis of maternal risk factors for childhood sexual abuse : early attitudes and behaviours, socioeconomic status, and mental health.

Martin A, Najman J, Williams G, Bor W, Gorton E and Alati R
Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry v. 45 no. 8 Aug 2011: 629-637
Using data from the Mater-University of Queensland Study of Pregnancy (MUSP), this article investigates maternal and socioeconomic risk factors for child sexual abuse. The study looked at maternal mental health, pre-pregnancy attitudes towards child, smoking and alcohol use, breastfeeding, education and income, and marital status. The article discusses the findings, noting associations with penetrative and non-penetrative child sexual abuse.

Child protection and mothers in substance abuse treatment

Taplin S and Mattick R
Sydney : National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, University of New South Wales, 2011.
This report examines parenting issues and child protection involvement among women with a history of illicit drug use in Australia. It presents findings from the Child Protection and Mothers in Substance Abuse Treatment study, a three-year study funded by NSW Community Services and the University of New South Wales. The study draws on interviews with 171 women attending opioid treatment clinics across Sydney, New South Wales, as well as drug treatment and child protection records as permitted. Just over one-third of the women were involved with child protection services at the time of interview, with one-third of their children in out of home care. The study examined what factors were associated with child protection involvement, including number of children, use of psychiatric medication, support from own parents, and socioeconomic disadvantage, as well as parenting issues and child behaviour problems. The report examines the findings, and notes the implications for policy and practice. Of particular interest was the finding that having greater social support, particularly from parents, significantly reduced the likelihood of being involved with the child protection system.

Characteristics of non-Aboriginal and Aboriginal children and families with substantiated child maltreatment : a population-based study.

O'Donnell M, Nassar N, Leonard H, Jacoby P, Mathews R, Patterson Y and Stanley F
International Journal of Epidemiology v. 39 no. 3 Jun 2010: 921-928
This article investigated what child and parental factors increase the risk of child abuse. Using health and child protection data from Western Australia for children born between 1990-2005, the study examined child and parental factors including child disability, parental age, socio-economic status, parental mental health, substance use and assault-related hospital admissions, with separate analyses for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal children.

The effect of family income on risk of child maltreatment

Cancian M, Slack K and Yang M
Madison, Wis. : Institute for Research on Poverty, 2010.
Though it is known that children from poorer families face a higher risk of maltreatment than children from wealthier families, there is little understanding of the exact role of family income as a child abuse risk factor. Using data from the Child Support Demonstration Evaluation (CSDE) and the TANF Integrated Data Project, this paper measures the impact of income on child maltreatment among children reported to the child welfare system in the United States.

Resilient communities: socio-demographic factors associated with lower than expected rates of child protection reporting in small areas in NSW

Butler M, Hopkins J and Nivison-Smith I
Ashfield, NSW : NSW Dept. of Community Services, 2009.
This report examines the relationship between child protection referral rates and socio-demographic factors. It analyses data for local government areas in New South Wales, using an area-based regression approach, to identify the child, parental, and neighbourhood factors associated with both higher and lower rates of child abuse incidents. The report also discusses the concept of resilient communities and factors associated with lower than expected child protection referral rates, which, the authors note, can also be the result of under-reporting or higher reporting thresholds.

Ethnic identity and exposure to maltreatment in childhood : evidence from a New Zealand birth cohort.

Marie D, Fergusson D and Boden J
Social Policy Journal of New Zealand no. 36 Aug 2009: 154-171
Exposure to maltreatment in childhood, including sexual abuse, severe physical punishment and inter-parental violence, is an issue of growing concern in New Zealand. The present study examined the associations between ethnic identity and exposure to childhood maltreatment among a longitudinal birth cohort of individuals born in Christchurch in 1977. Participants of Maori ethnicity reported higher rates of exposure to physical punishment and inter-parental violence, but did not report higher rates of exposure to sexual abuse. Control for a range of socio-economic and family functioning factors reduced the magnitude of the associations between ethnicity and both physical punishment and inter-parental violence, but did not fully account for the associations between ethnicity and maltreatment exposure. Furthermore, adjustment for variations in Maori cultural identity indicated that cohort members of sole Maori identity were at significantly increased risk of exposure to both physical punishment and inter-parental violence. It was concluded that Maori, and in particular those of sole Maori cultural identity, were at higher risk of exposure to physical punishment and inter-parental violence, and that the associations could not be fully explained by either socio-economic deprivation or exposure to family dysfunction in childhood.

Big ideas for children: investing in our nation's future.

First Focus (Organization)
Washington, D.C. : First Focus, 2008
The 2008 presidential election in America offered no 'big ideas' or the longer-term vision necessary to make improvements in the lives of children. In response, this collection of papers was commissioned to highlight and demonstrate the possible policy options to combat poverty, invest in early childhood and education programs, reform the health care system for children, improve child safety, child well-being, and home and community for children and families.

Are family changes, social trends and unanticipated policy consequences making children's lives more challenging?

Hayes A
Family Matters no. 78 2008: 60-63
This opinion piece draws attention to the changing family and demographic trends affecting children today, including increases in divorce and single parent families, the increasing divide of disadvantage and affluence, and child abuse. These challenges can affect children's behavioural and relationship development, and are key considerations for future policy.

Lives cut short: child death by maltreatment.

Connolly M and Doolan M
Wellington, NZ : Dunmore Publishing for the Office of the Children's Commissioner, 2007
A quantitative and qualitative analysis of child deaths by maltreatment in New Zealand was undertaken with the aim of improving understanding of how child homicide happens and how society responds to it. The study examines the statistics and individual cases of child deaths. It describes patterns of behaviour and the wider contextual factors, such as socioeconomic status, cultural or gender behaviours, that affect families. It proposes changes that would strengthen the child protection system and break intergenerational cycles of child abuse and neglect.

The relationship between parenting and poverty

Katz I
York England : Joseph Rowntree Foundation, 2007.

Child protection reports in context

Nivison-Smith I and Chilvers M
Ashfield, NSW : NSW Dept. of Community Services, 2007.
This report examines the relationship between child protection referral rates and socio-demographic factors and disadvantage. It analyses data for New South Wales from the Australian Bureau of Statistics' Index of Disadvantage, as well as other data on Indigenous status, one parent families, income support, parental unemployment, and other risk factors reported in the literature. The report discusses the findings and areas for further investigation.
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