Rural differences in child maltreatment reports, reporters, and service responses

Kathryn Maguire-Jack, Hyunil Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Child maltreatment reports across the United States have increased over the past decade. Much of the research on child maltreatment has been dominated by information from urban areas because urban children outnumber rural children. The current study sought to understand how large urban, small urban, and rural children compare on key information in child welfare reports over the period 2003–2017 available from the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System. Specifically, we compared rates of reported children across large urban, small urban, and rural child populations as well as the sources of those reports across time. We also examined percentages of report outcomes (i.e., substantiations, in-home services, foster care entries, and re-reports) among reported children across these three urban-rural groups. For significance testing, we estimated confidence intervals of rates and percentages. We found that the rural child population had higher rates of reports (approximately 60/1000 children in rural areas and 40/1000 children in large urban areas over the period 2013–2017) and re-reports (13% higher in rural areas in 2013–2017) compared to the urban child population, but the percentages of substantiation decisions and in-home services among reported children were very similar across the urban-rural groups. Children reported by non-professional sources were more likely to have a foster care entry among the urban child population compared to the rural child population. More research is needed to delve into the drivers of these differences.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number105792
JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
StatePublished - Jan 2021


  • Child welfare outcomes
  • National data
  • Reports
  • Rural child maltreatment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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