Abstract: Father- and Mother-Perpetrated Maltreatment and Child Welfare Investigation Outcomes: Are There Perpetrator Race/Ethnicity X Gender Disparities? (Society for Social Work and Research 24th Annual Conference - Reducing Racial and Economic Inequality)

Father- and Mother-Perpetrated Maltreatment and Child Welfare Investigation Outcomes: Are There Perpetrator Race/Ethnicity X Gender Disparities?

Friday, January 17, 2020
Marquis BR Salon 12, ML 2 (Marriott Marquis Washington DC)
* noted as presenting author
Julia Kobulsky, PhD, Assistant Professor, Temple University, PA
Rachel Wildfeuer, MA, Doctoral Candidate, Temple University, PA
Susan Yoon, PhD, Assistant Professor, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH
Jamie Cage, PhD, Assistant Professor, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA
Background & Purpose: Fathers have yet to be fully included in Child Protective Services (CPS) practice. This study aims to support the development of effective engagement and intervention tools for fathers by first, building knowledge on the distinguishing characteristics of father-perpetrated maltreatment.  Second, it determines whether there are disparities in CPS investigation outcomes based on alleged perpetrator gender (fathers alone [FA], mothers alone [MA], mother and fathers [M+F]) and race/ethnicity, as well as interactive (alleged perpetrator gender X race) effects.


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.