Community Informant Explanations for Unusual Neighborhood Rates of Child Maltreatment Reports

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Graduate School of Social Work


This study explored perceptions of community informants on socioenvironmental factors that explain why rates of child maltreatment reporting are different in neighborhoods with similar population characteristics. This study used data from the SoCal Neighborhoods and Child Welfare study, a multiphase, mixed-methods study of neighborhoods in Los Angeles and San Diego counties. Semistructured qualitative interviews with key informants (N = 28) in 22 census tracts explored factors that account for differences in maltreatment rates among sociodemographically similar neighborhoods. Thematic content analysis revealed three themes regarding neighborhood contributors to maltreatment behaviors and reporting: (a) community norms and values, (b) community resources and providers, and (c) housing dynamics and built environment. Findings indicate complexity in forces that affect maltreatment behavior and reporting. Adding to research on neighborhood social dynamics and child maltreatment, findings suggest that composite indicators of maltreatment within neighborhoods are affected by maltreatment behaviors and the definition, recognition, and reporting of maltreatment.

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