Professionals' decision-making in cases of physical punishment reported to child welfare authorities: does family poverty matter?

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Abstract

ABSTRACT

The influence of family poverty on professionals' decision-making in cases of physical punishment reported to child welfare agencies was examined. The sample was drawn from the Canadian Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect. The influence of five indicators of poverty on six investigation outcomes was assessed. In addition, a Poverty Index was constructed from these five variables to assess whether the family's overall poverty status influenced investigation outcomes. The outcome variables examined were case substantiation, provision of ongoing child welfare services, referrals to child and family support programmes, out-of-home placement, applications to child welfare court and police involvement. Together, the poverty indicators did not account for more than 6% of the explained variation in any of the outcome variables, nor did the magnitude of the Poverty Index affect the likelihood of any of the investigation outcomes. These findings suggest that family poverty does not influence professionals' decision-making in cases of physical punishment reported to child welfare agencies in Canada. The findings have implications for the ongoing development of policy aimed at reducing parental use of physical punishment.

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