Methods: A sample of children (N = 2,017) who were reported for physical abuse, sexual abuse, or neglect was drawn from wave 1 of the second National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-being (NSCAW-II). Measures included caseworker-reported maltreatment characteristics (type, severity, co-occurrence, and duration) and co-occurring risk factors (prior maltreatment reports, intimate partner violence, parental substance use, mental health problems, and history of arrest/detention), as well as perpetrator race/ethnicity (Black non-Hispanic, White non-Hispanic, Hispanic/Other), child age, and child gender. Outcomes were level of caseworker perceived risk (range: 1-5) and whether (yes/no) the CPS investigation resulted in services, substantiation, out-of-home placement, criminal investigation, and criminal charges. Chi-squares and ANOVAs assessed bivariate differences in the characteristics of maltreatment attributed to MA, FA, and M+F. Stepwise linear and logistic regression analyses then assessed 1) perpetrator gender (MA, FA, M+F) and race/ethnicity effects on child welfare investigation outcomes (step 1), 2) whether maltreatment characteristics, co-occurring risk factors, and child demographics attenuated any perpetrator effects (step 2), and 3) perpetrator gender X race/ethnicity effects (step 3).
Results: FA maltreatment was more frequently physical or sexual abuse and less frequently neglect than MA and M+F maltreatment. FA maltreatment was the longest in duration and was associated with oldest child age. M+F maltreatment had the highest average severity, and the most frequently occurred with intimate partner violence, parental substance use and parental mental health problems. In step 1 of multivariate analysis, M+F perpetration was associated with higher caseworker perceived risk (β=.09, p=0.003), substantiation (OR=1.59, p=0.007), out-of-home placement (OR=1.76, p=0.001), and criminal investigation (OR=1.65, p=0.007). FA perpetration was positively associated with criminal investigations (OR=3.42, p<0.001) and charges (OR=2.77, p<0.001). Compared to Black non-Hispanic perpetrators, maltreatment by White non-Hispanic perpetrators resulted in fewer services (OR=.057, p=0.001), out-of-home placements (OR=.072, p=.040), and criminal charges (OR=0.62, p=.026). In step 2, the addition of covariates attenuated M+F perpetrator effects. FA perpetration, however, remained associated with criminal investigation (OR=1.97, p=.001) and charges (OR=2.09, p=.008). Maltreatment by White non-Hispanic perpetrators remained associated with fewer services (OR=.52, p=.001) and out-of-home placements (OR=.68, p=.046). In step 3, a significant interaction was found, with M+F maltreatment by White, non-Hispanic perpetrators having lower odds of criminal investigation than M+F maltreatment by Black, non-Hispanic perpetrators.
Conclusions & Implications: Findings indicate perpetrator-related differences in maltreatment risk, with increased severity and duration in maltreatment where fathers are involved. Findings also suggest disparities in CPS investigation outcomes related to perpetrator race/ethnicity and gender. Gender and racial/ethnic bias may together disadvantage Black, non-Hispanic fathers in the context of CPS investigation in line with intersectionality theory.