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Influence of Poverty on Child Abuse.

Decades of studies have established a strong link between poverty and child abuse, but identifying connections is only half the battle, as uncovering root causes is a key aim of child maltreatment research. A set of studies by researchers from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, attempts to get at the causal mechanisms behind the economic factors that strongly are associated with child maltreatment, either as a risk factor or an outcome.

"When people think about child abuse and neglect, they tend to focus only on deficiencies in parenting behaviors, and not a broader set of stressors that can create or exacerbate risk for children," says Kristen Slack, professor of social work. "Poverty and economic hardship need to be systematically considered in our efforts to prevent maltreatment or lessen its consequences. For some families, economic support can make a meaningful difference in whether children experience harm."

The studies reveal some common threads. Researchers found economic factors often play a large role, but income alone does not explain the poverty-abuse relationship. They also found that it is important to go beyond the individual and family level when searching for commonalties in child abuse cases to include where people live, work, and go to school, and also where families fit into the broader context of society at large.

Several studies suggest that high earners and well-to-do neighborhoods have unexpected links to child abuse outcomes. Other studies found that children and families at risk for maltreatment or already experiencing maltreatment very often experience numerous poverty-related problems--such as unemployment, low education, disability, and many other risk factors that further complicate efforts to prevent child abuse and reduce its impact across the life course, which is the ultimate goal of all of this research.

To that end, findings from the studies also indicate that public policies that assist families through greater economic support have the potential both to reduce child abuse and promote family reunification when children are placed in foster care.

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Title Annotation:Sociology
Publication:USA Today (Magazine)
Date:Aug 1, 2017
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