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April 2021Vol. 22, No. 4Child Maltreatment Reporting in Rural vs. Urban Areas

Most of the research on child maltreatment focuses on children in urban areas since they outnumber those in rural areas. A recent article in Children and Youth Services Review emphasizes child maltreatment statistics in rural areas, comparing maltreatment reports, report sources, and service outcomes with those in urban areas.

The study examines three research questions:

  • Do maltreatment reports differ between urban and rural areas during the study period (2003-2017)?
  • Do report sources differ between urban and rural areas?
  • Does the probability of substantiation and postresponse outcomes differ by report source and urban or rural area?

Measuring report rates between 2003 and 2017, researchers found that rural populations had higher rates. Between 2013 and 2017, rates were about 60 per 1,000 children in rural areas and 40 per 1,000 children in large urban areas.

Although both rural and urban areas had more reports by professionals than nonprofessionals, rural areas had a greater percentage of nonprofessional report sources than urban areas. The percentages of substantiated reports and of those who received in-home services were relatively similar in rural and urban areas.

This is the first major study in recent years to examine and compare national data for child maltreatment reports, report sources, and services outcomes for rural and urban areas. It is important to note that there are several limitations to the study, such as that it relied on official child maltreatment data and screened-in reports, which may undercount the actual occurrence of maltreatment.

To learn more, read "Rural Differences in Child Maltreatment Reports, Reporters, and Service Responses."