COVID-19 and Alleged Child Maltreatment

Lindsey Bullinger, Angela Boy, Megan Feely, Stephen Messner, Kerri Raissian, William Schneider, Shannon Self-Brown

Research output: Working paper


The policy response to the COVID-19 pandemic led to a sudden and unprecedented increase in the amount of time parents and children spent at home. We use real-time, novel mobile phone movement data and quick-release administrative data on child maltreatment referrals to examine how time at home is related to allegations of child maltreatment. Findings show that allegations plummeted by approximately 55% following the emergency declaration relative to 2018 and 2019 trends during the same time period. However, time at home during the pandemic was associated with more referrals, particularly of supervisory neglect, with the largest impacts in metropolitan counties, counties with historically lower referral rates, and counties with more poverty. We also find that more time at home is positively related to educational neglect referrals among children in areas with high poverty and higher referral rates. Our results highlight how children and families are faring during the pandemic, and we offer several clinical and policy implications.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Number of pages42
StateIn preparation - Oct 1 2020


  • child abuse and neglect
  • COVID-19
  • child protection
  • severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)
  • Pandemic


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