How Can Differential Response Inform a Public Health Approach to Child Maltreatment Prevention?

Lisa Merkel-Holguin, Tamara Fuller, Marc Winokur, Ida Drury, Bob Lonne

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter explores how Differential Response (DR) might inform a public health approach for preventing child maltreatment. DR allows child protection systems to respond to families in a variety of ways that include both voluntary and mandated services. To frame this discussion, a brief history of the development of DR in the United States is provided, along with descriptions of variations in DR models from international perspectives. A substantial amount of research has indicated positive safety, permanency, and well-being outcomes associated with DR. Although the DR research has been contested by some, the polarized nature of the current debate has proven neither helpful nor progressive for the child welfare system. This chapter examines the tenets of the debate, including differences and dilemmas that are not just inherent in DR, but instead belong to the entire system for the prevention and treatment of child maltreatment. These critiques may also serve as mileposts for rethinking the current child welfare system in terms of public health approaches.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationChild Maltreatment
Subtitle of host publicationContemporary Issues in Research and Policy
Number of pages16
StatePublished - 2019

Publication series

NameChild Maltreatment: Contemporary Issues in Research and Policy
ISSN (Print)2211-9701
ISSN (Electronic)2211-971X


  • Child protection
  • Child welfare
  • Differential response
  • Maltreatment prevention
  • Public health

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Health(social science)
  • Psychology (miscellaneous)
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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