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Maltreatment risk among children with disabilities

M. J. Maclean, S. Sims, C. Bower, H. Leonard, F. J. Stanley, M. O'Donnell

Academic Literature


BACKGROUND: Children with disabilities are at increased risk of child maltreatment; however, there is a gap in the evidence about whether all disabilities are at equal risk and whether risk factors vary according to the type of disability. METHODS: A population-based record-linkage study of all children born in Western Australia between 1990 and 2010. Children with disabilities were identified by using populationbased registers and risk of maltreatment determined by allegations reported to the Department for Child Protection and Family Support. RESULTS: Although children with disabilities make up 10.4% of the population, they represent 25.9% of children with a maltreatment allegation and 29.0% of those with a substantiated allegation; however, increased risk of maltreatment was not consistent across all disability types. Children with intellectual disability, mental/behavioral problems, and conduct disorder continued to have increased risk of an allegation and substantiated allegation after adjusting for child, family, and neighborhood risk factors. In contrast, adjusting for these factors resulted in children with autism having a lower risk, and children with Down syndrome and birth defects/cerebral palsy having the same risk as children without disability. CONCLUSIONS: The prevalence of disabilities in the child protection system suggests a need for awareness of the scope of issues faced by these children and the need for interagency collaboration to ensure children's complex needs are met. Supports are needed for families with children with disabilities to assist in meeting the child's health and developmental needs, but also to support the parents in managing the often more complex parenting environment. © Copyright 2017 by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Publication information

Journal/Publication : Pediatrics

Domain/s: Social relationships

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