The criminal justice system and child placement in child sexual abuse cases

Theodore P. Cross, Diane Martell, Elizabeth McDonald, Marilyn Ahl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study examined the relationship between declining to prosecute child sexual abuse and child placement. All cases involving child sexual abuse charges referred to prosecutors in four jurisdictions across the country were tracked. A sample (N = 289) of the child victims and families from these cases were interviewed at the time of referral for prosecution and 8 to 9 months later, and data on life events (including child placement), maternal support, and child and family adjustment were gathered. In cases declined for prosecution, 41% of children were placed outside the home since the first interview, as compared to 19% of children in accepted cases (p< .001). A multivariate analysis demonstrated that children were significantly more likely to be placed outside the home when alleged abuse lasted more than 1 month, families were more disturbed, maternal support was less, and cases were declined for prosecution. Possible explanations for the relationship between prosecution and child placement are discussed as well as recommendations for practice and further research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)32-44
Number of pages13
JournalChild Maltreatment
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1999
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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