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Child-Maltreatment-Research-L (CMRL) List Serve

Database of Past CMRL Messages

Welcome to the database of past Child-Maltreatment-Research-L (CMRL) list serve messages. The table below contains all past CMRL messages (text only, no attachments) from Nov. 20, 1996 - March 6, 2018 and is updated quarterly.

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Message ID: 8549
Date: 2010-08-28

Author:Finkelhor, David

Subject:RE: New bulletin: Updated Trends in Child Maltreatment, 2008

Thanks for the interesting details on your findings, Ben. One question is why Ben's findings are at variance with two other population surveys of youth that do show a decline over the 1995 to 2005 period: the National Crime Victimization Survey, which shows a 67% decline in past year sexual assault for the 12-17 year cohort from 1993-2003, and the Minnesota Student Survey, which shows a 22% decline in lifetime family member sexual abuse and a 23% decline in lifetime nonfamily member adult sexual abuse from 1992 to 2004 for the whole state population of 6th, 9th and 12th graders. One thing to keep in mind is that change in lifetime measures will generally be slower than change in annual incidence because the lifetime is averaging over a longer period of time that includes before the change or when the change was less pronounced. Ben's is a lifetime measure and shouldn't be expected to change as much as say the NCVS. Another possible factor is the one of statistical power. The % decline for girls in Ben's study is 15%, even though not significant, but that is not that different from 22-23% lifetime decline for the Minnesota cohorts. Since his estimate is NS, the confidence interval must include 0% change which means it probably includes 30% change as well. (Hopefully Ben can fill in this detail.) So Ben's study and the Minnesota study might not be that different. I have heard some folks claim that the NCVS is suffering from funding problems that may have compromised their methods and may account for the large NCVS drops. However, it is interesting that the NCVS findings about sexual assault and other crime are corroborated by the drops in crime (and sex assault) being reported to the police and showing up in the UCR data, although the UCR declines are not quite as dramatic as the NCVS drop. The NCVS did not increase much during the 1980s when UCR rates for violence were going up (leading to the interpretation that the increase may have been due to greater reporting of and police sensitivity to domestic violence) but the declines in the 1990s have been shown in both the population and official data, which have led most criminologists to believe that the crime decline is real and that the NCVS data are generally reliable. Ben's finding about the younger kids could possibly be interpreted to suggest that sexual abuse of younger kids (the kind that gets particularly reported and investigated by CPS) has declined but not so much sex crimes against teens. But this flies in the face of NCVS data, which show declines in teen sexual assault, a lot of it the most serious kind of forcible rape, which is what the NCVS is best at measuring. Because the NCVS may not be so good at measuring intimate partner sex crime, another possibility is that teenagers' sensitivity to defining and reporting such events in surveys increased over the decade, something that Ben's survey picked up but not the NCVS, whose crime context still gets only the most forcible episodes. But if teens are defining and reporting such episodes more, it is surprising that they aren't also sending it more in the direction of the police, resulting in increasing or at least flat trends for sexual assault in the UCR, which isn't what they show. There are a lot of complexities in the available data that need to be worked out, including some of the subgroup analysis (for example, I do not believe the NCVS shows the same racial pattern than Ben's findings do). I hope people keep thinking about and working on it. One other study folks should be aware of is: Are increased worker caseloads in state child protective service agencies a potential explanation for the decline in child sexual abuse?: A multilevel analysis by Joanna Almeida, Amy P. Cohen, S.V. Subramanian and Beth E. Molnar from CAN 2008. This study looked at the issue of whether funding cuts and resource cuts might be responsible for the CPS declines in sexual abuse, and failed to find such a pattern. It has always seemed to me that in the case of both reduced resources and Alternative Response policies, what one would most expect to decline were the less serious and most ambiguous forms of maltreatment. That sexual abuse has declined the most, and much more than neglect, does not seem consistent with those hypotheses. Are sexual abuse allegations being triaged into AR where no investigation would occur? It seems unlikely. For people who started on this thread in response to the new bulletin, none of this discussion really pertains to the question of whether declines have or will occur in the face of the recession. It is more about whether there were declines in the 15 years preceding, what the pattern of such trends were and what may have caused them. David Finkelhor Crimes against Children Research Center Family Research Laboratory Department of Sociology, University of New Hampshire Durham, NH 03824 Tel 603 862-2761* Fax 603 862-1122 email: david.finkelhor@unh.edu My new book has been released. Click on it for more details and to order. http://www.unh.edu/ccrc/ http://www.unh.edu/frl/ -----Original Message----- From: bounce-6223505-6832158@list.cornell.edu [mailto:bounce-6223505-6832158@list.cornell.edu] On Behalf Of Chaffin, Mark J. (HSC) Sent: 2010-08-28 08:35 To: Child Maltreatment Researchers Subject: RE: New bulletin: Updated Trends in Child Maltreatment, 2008 Ben, I recall these findings. Excellent work. Its always good to have population based data. I think we can FINALLY put to rest the notion that somehow kids are more reluctant to report now than they were in the past. In fact, it is the opposite. As anyone who watches Oprah could attest! If anything, this finding would tend to mask declines, not vice versa. The age findings are particularly interesting. There has always been a surge in risk for sexual assault of girls around age 12, and some corresponding changes in who (relationally speaking) is assaulting them, as quite a number of peer-on-peer events come into the picture. The overall epidemiology of sexual assault over age and time is complex. These declines are modest, but still are declines, and are not inconsistent with the CPS findings, given that CPS often is not involved in peer-on-peer type incidents, although law enforcement is and that more, not less, are being reported now than before. I would like to briefly comment on some other points mentioned by others. First, the idea that there is a disconnect between the reality of front-line practice and the declines observed in the data. As mentioned, front line practice observes only the numerator, and never the denominator, so this is not surprising. The second observation is that there are horrible cases out there, and that CPS does not always respond to them. I've been working in the child abuse field, including on the front lines, for around 30 years. Let me tell you--there have ALWAYS been horrible cases, plenty of them, and people have been complaining about frightening CPS rule-outs forever. People always believe that cases are getting worse--I've never met a practitioner who believed otherwise about anything--its like a badge of honor. So, I think we need hard data on this one, and I'm not sure that impressions are trustworthy, given the difficulty human beings have with these current vs. old days contrasts. Most of all, I would like to comment on the recurrent idea that if indeed rates are going down, that this takes the wind out of our advocacy sails. If this is the case, I strongly recommend that we get new sails. After all, the main alternative conclusion is that our efforts have been disastrous failures. I think if we tie our advocacy to the rather thin notion that "our intervention and prevention efforts are wonderful and effective, but its all hidden and we can never trust good news, so its really a crisis and getting worse by the day" that this is an unsustainable contradiction. Mark ________________________________________ From: Ben Saunders [saunders@musc.edu] Sent: Friday, August 27, 2010 1:14 PM Subject: Re: New bulletin: Updated Trends in Child Maltreatment, 2008 Just to add a bit more complication to this discussion, I presented a paper at the San Diego Conference in January looking at results of lifetime sexual assault prevalence reported by teenagers assessed in the National Survey of Adolescents (N=3,907), which we conducted in 1995, and the National Survey of Adolescents-Replication (N=3,614), the first wave of which was conducted in 2005. These two surveys separated by 10 years examined two different cohorts of adolescents (ages 12-17) living in U.S. households with telephones. The samples were sampled and recruited using the same methods. Self-reported lifetime prevalence of sexual assault was assessed with the two samples using the same screening questions. So, comparison of the results of the two surveys gives us snapshots of self-reported sexual assault prevalence among teenagers in 1995 and 2005. However, it tells us nothing about the trends in the interim. Here is a summary of the findings... 1. No statistically significant differences between SA prevalence among boys (3.5% - 3.8%) or girls (13.2% - 11.5%), though the trend for girls was a decline. 2. No significant differences in SA prevalence within racial/ethnic groups, though there was a trend for decline among African Americans (13.1% - 9.8%). 3. A significant decline in SA prevalence among the 12 year old cohort (3.7% - 1.6%). No significant differences among any of the other age cohorts. 4. Average age at first sexual assault increased fro 11.8 years to 14.9 years. 5. The reporting to authorities rate for first sexual assaults doubled from 14% to 29%. These results suggest that changes in gross statistics like number of reports to CPS likely mask the more interesting underlying trends in gender, age, racial/ethnic, and other subgroups. These data indicated that declines are being seen in the younger age cohorts (0-12) and perhaps among certain ethnic groups (AA). However, other groups report similar results in 1995 and 2005. So, worrying about global trends may be less revealing than better understanding which subgroups are exhibiting which trends and then trying to understand why. Articles describing the comparison data for CSA, physical abuse, DV exposure, and community violence exposures from the 1995 NSA and 2005 NSA-R will be appearing in the literature over the next year. Several are in press now. I am happy to send a handout from the San Diego paper to anyone that wants it. Contact me back channel at saunders@musc.edu. Ben Basically, there were On 8/27/2010 9:41 AM, Chaffin, Mark J. (HSC) wrote: Re: decreases in physical and sexual abuse rates. In studies using law enforcement data, I've observed similar declines in child sexual abuse cases involving nonfamilial and unrelated perpetrators. These cases don't involve CPS policies, and don't involve family pressures to retain a breadwinner during hard times. The trajectory of the decline in these separate data sets and different kinds of reports (often non-CPS cases) over the past decade and a half parallels what was seen in the CPS report data. In my career in child abuse research, I can't recall seeing very many research findings that seem to evoke such skepticism as research suggesting that abuse rates are declining. I firmly believe that skepticism about research findings is a good thing, but I'm intrigued about why so much skepticism about this now almost two decade long finding. As a psychologist, the really interesting research question to me is becoming the reaction of our field to this finding, more than any more examination on the finding itself! I recall recently sharing this finding with a person from a rural child advocacy center (who had never heard anything about it) and she was almost in tears with distress. Mark -- Benjamin E. Saunders, Ph.D. Professor and Associate Director National Crime Victims Research & Treatment Center Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences Medical University of South Carolina 67 President Street, MSC 861 Charleston, SC 29425 843-792-2945 Phone 843-792-7146 Fax www.musc.edu/ncvc Learn about Project BEST Take our free Web-based training courses: TF-CBTWeb CPTWeb

Thanks for the interesting details on your findings, Ben. One question is why Ben's findings are at variance with two other population surveys of youth that do show a decline over the 1995 to 2005 period: the National Crime Victimization Survey, which shows a 67% decline in past year sexual assault for the 12-17 year cohort from 1993-2003, and the Minnesota Student Survey, which shows a 22% decline in lifetime family member sexual abuse and a 23% decline in lifetime nonfamily member adult sexual abuse from 1992 to 2004 for the whole state population of 6th, 9th and 12th graders. One thing to keep in mind is that change in lifetime measures will generally be slower than change in annual incidence because the lifetime is averaging over a longer period of time that includes before the change or when the change was less pronounced. Ben's is a lifetime measure and shouldn't be expected to change as much as say the NCVS. Another possible factor is the one of statistical power. The % decline for girls in Ben's study is 15%, even though not significant, but that is not that different from 22-23% lifetime decline for the Minnesota cohorts. Since his estimate is NS, the confidence interval must include 0% change which means it probably includes 30% change as well. (Hopefully Ben can fill in this detail.) So Ben's study and the Minnesota study might not be that different. I have heard some folks claim that the NCVS is suffering from funding problems that may have compromised their methods and may account for the large NCVS drops. However, it is interesting that the NCVS findings about sexual assault and other crime are corroborated by the drops in crime (and sex assault) being reported to the police and showing up in the UCR data, although the UCR declines are not quite as dramatic as the NCVS drop. The NCVS did not increase much during the 1980s when UCR rates for violence were going up (leading to the interpretation that the increase may have been due to greater reporting of and police sensitivity to domestic violence) but the declines in the 1990s have been shown in both the population and official data, which have led most criminologists to believe that the crime decline is real and that the NCVS data are generally reliable. Ben's finding about the younger kids could possibly be interpreted to suggest that sexual abuse of younger kids (the kind that gets particularly reported and investigated by CPS) has declined but not so much sex crimes against teens. But this flies in the face of NCVS data, which show declines in teen sexual assault, a lot of it the most serious kind of forcible rape, which is what the NCVS is best at measuring. Because the NCVS may not be so good at measuring intimate partner sex crime, another possibility is that teenagers' sensitivity to defining and reporting such events in surveys increased over the decade, something that Ben's survey picked up but not the NCVS, whose crime context still gets only the most forcible episodes. But if teens are defining and reporting such episodes more, it is surprising that they aren't also sending it more in the direction of the police, resulting in increasing or at least flat trends for sexual assault in the UCR, which isn't what they show. There are a lot of complexities in the available data that need to be worked out, including some of the subgroup analysis (for example, I do not believe the NCVS shows the same racial pattern than Ben's findings do). I hope people keep thinking about and working on it. One other study folks should be aware of is: Are increased worker caseloads in state child protective service agencies a potential explanation for the decline in child sexual abuse?: A multilevel analysis by Joanna Almeida, Amy P. Cohen, S.V. Subramanian and Beth E. Molnar from CAN 2008. This study looked at the issue of whether funding cuts and resource cuts might be responsible for the CPS declines in sexual abuse, and failed to find such a pattern. It has always seemed to me that in the case of both reduced resources and Alternative Response policies, what one would most expect to decline were the less serious and most ambiguous forms of maltreatment. That sexual abuse has declined the most, and much more than neglect, does not seem consistent with those hypotheses. Are sexual abuse allegations being triaged into AR where no investigation would occur? It seems unlikely. For people who started on this thread in response to the new bulletin, none of this discussion really pertains to the question of whether declines have or will occur in the face of the recession. It is more about whether there were declines in the 15 years preceding, what the pattern of such trends were and what may have caused them. David Finkelhor Crimes against Children Research Center Family Research Laboratory Department of Sociology, University of New Hampshire Durham, NH 03824 Tel 603 862-2761* Fax 603 862-1122 email: david.finkelhorunh.edu My new book has been released. Click on it for more details and to order. http://www.unh.edu/ccrc/ http://www.unh.edu/frl/ -----Original Message----- From: bounce-6223505-6832158list.cornell.edu [mailto:bounce-6223505-6832158list.cornell.edu] On Behalf Of Chaffin, Mark J. (HSC) Sent: 2010-08-28 08:35 To: Child Maltreatment Researchers Subject: RE: New bulletin: Updated Trends in Child Maltreatment, 2008 Ben, I recall these findings. Excellent work. Its always good to have population based data. I think we can FINALLY put to rest the notion that somehow kids are more reluctant to report now than they were in the past. In fact, it is the opposite. As anyone who watches Oprah could attest! If anything, this finding would tend to mask declines, not vice versa. The age findings are particularly interesting. There has always been a surge in risk for sexual assault of girls around age 12, and some corresponding changes in who (relationally speaking) is assaulting them, as quite a number of peer-on-peer events come into the picture. The overall epidemiology of sexual assault over age and time is complex. These declines are modest, but still are declines, and are not inconsistent with the CPS findings, given that CPS often is not involved in peer-on-peer type incidents, although law enforcement is and that more, not less, are being reported now than before. I would like to briefly comment on some other points mentioned by others. First, the idea that there is a disconnect between the reality of front-line practice and the declines observed in the data. As mentioned, front line practice observes only the numerator, and never the denominator, so this is not surprising. The second observation is that there are horrible cases out there, and that CPS does not always respond to them. I've been working in the child abuse field, including on the front lines, for around 30 years. Let me tell you--there have ALWAYS been horrible cases, plenty of them, and people have been complaining about frightening CPS rule-outs forever. People always believe that cases are getting worse--I've never met a practitioner who believed otherwise about anything--its like a badge of honor. So, I think we need hard data on this one, and I'm not sure that impressions are trustworthy, given the difficulty human beings have with these current vs. old days contrasts. Most of all, I would like to comment on the recurrent idea that if indeed rates are going down, that this takes the wind out of our advocacy sails. If this is the case, I strongly recommend that we get new sails. After all, the main alternative conclusion is that our efforts have been disastrous failures. I think if we tie our advocacy to the rather thin notion that "our intervention and prevention efforts are wonderful and effective, but its all hidden and we can never trust good news, so its really a crisis and getting worse by the day" that this is an unsustainable contradiction. Mark ________________________________________ From: Ben Saunders [saundersmusc.edu] Sent: Friday, August 27, 2010 1:14 PM Subject: Re: New bulletin: Updated Trends in Child Maltreatment, 2008 Just to add a bit more complication to this discussion, I presented a paper at the San Diego Conference in January looking at results of lifetime sexual assault prevalence reported by teenagers assessed in the National Survey of Adolescents (N=3,907), which we conducted in 1995, and the National Survey of Adolescents-Replication (N=3,614), the first wave of which was conducted in 2005. These two surveys separated by 10 years examined two different cohorts of adolescents (ages 12-17) living in U.S. households with telephones. The samples were sampled and recruited using the same methods. Self-reported lifetime prevalence of sexual assault was assessed with the two samples using the same screening questions. So, comparison of the results of the two surveys gives us snapshots of self-reported sexual assault prevalence among teenagers in 1995 and 2005. However, it tells us nothing about the trends in the interim. Here is a summary of the findings... 1. No statistically significant differences between SA prevalence among boys (3.5% - 3.8%) or girls (13.2% - 11.5%), though the trend for girls was a decline. 2. No significant differences in SA prevalence within racial/ethnic groups, though there was a trend for decline among African Americans (13.1% - 9.8%). 3. A significant decline in SA prevalence among the 12 year old cohort (3.7% - 1.6%). No significant differences among any of the other age cohorts. 4. Average age at first sexual assault increased fro 11.8 years to 14.9 years. 5. The reporting to authorities rate for first sexual assaults doubled from 14% to 29%. These results suggest that changes in gross statistics like number of reports to CPS likely mask the more interesting underlying trends in gender, age, racial/ethnic, and other subgroups. These data indicated that declines are being seen in the younger age cohorts (0-12) and perhaps among certain ethnic groups (AA). However, other groups report similar results in 1995 and 2005. So, worrying about global trends may be less revealing than better understanding which subgroups are exhibiting which trends and then trying to understand why. Articles describing the comparison data for CSA, physical abuse, DV exposure, and community violence exposures from the 1995 NSA and 2005 NSA-R will be appearing in the literature over the next year. Several are in press now. I am happy to send a handout from the San Diego paper to anyone that wants it. Contact me back channel at saundersmusc.edu. Ben Basically, there were On 8/27/2010 9:41 AM, Chaffin, Mark J. (HSC) wrote: Re: decreases in physical and sexual abuse rates. In studies using law enforcement data, I've observed similar declines in child sexual abuse cases involving nonfamilial and unrelated perpetrators. These cases don't involve CPS policies, and don't involve family pressures to retain a breadwinner during hard times. The trajectory of the decline in these separate data sets and different kinds of reports (often non-CPS cases) over the past decade and a half parallels what was seen in the CPS report data. In my career in child abuse research, I can't recall seeing very many research findings that seem to evoke such skepticism as research suggesting that abuse rates are declining. I firmly believe that skepticism about research findings is a good thing, but I'm intrigued about why so much skepticism about this now almost two decade long finding. As a psychologist, the really interesting research question to me is becoming the reaction of our field to this finding, more than any more examination on the finding itself! I recall recently sharing this finding with a person from a rural child advocacy center (who had never heard anything about it) and she was almost in tears with distress. Mark -- Benjamin E. Saunders, Ph.D. Professor and Associate Director National Crime Victims Research & Treatment Center Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences Medical University of South Carolina 67 President Street, MSC 861 Charleston, SC 29425 843-792-2945 Phone 843-792-7146 Fax www.musc.edu/ncvc Learn about Project BEST Take our free Web-based training courses: TF-CBTWeb CPTWeb