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Message ID: 8605
Date: 2010-08-28

Author:Chaffin, Mark J. (HSC)

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

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