Sunday, March 11, 2012

Child abuse - an ethnic or socio-economic problem?

David Farrar is criticising research claiming child abuse  isn't a cultural problem for Maori. He says,

High quality research would look at ethnic prevalence rates, while controlling other factors which might be an influence such as poverty, welfare status etc.  I’d be very interested to also see data on prevalence rates by welfare status, once income has been removed as a factor. In other words is there more child abuse in households where no adults work, than in households where at least one adult works – but has much the same level of income.

The data doesn't exist in NZ as far as I am aware. Children in poor families: does the source of family income change the picture? surveyed living standards but didn't touch on levels of abuse or neglect.

In 1996 researchers compared the CYF notification rate for the general population and welfare-reliant  homes and found a significantly higher rate for the latter. But the research didn't control for income.

The latest US National Incidence of Child Abuse and Neglect survey found:

The rate for children with no parent in the labor force (22.6 children per 1,000) is almost 3 times the rate for children an employed parent....
Children in families of low SES [socio-economic status] were at significantly greater risk of Harm Standard maltreatment overall. An estimated 22.5 children per 1,000 children in low–SES families experienced Harm Standard maltreatment, which is more than 5 times the rate of 4.4 per 1,000 children in families that were not of low SES.
Chances are there is considerable overlap.

But here's the kicker, and there is no reason why NZ should be any different,

... the incidence of Harm Standard physical abuse was significantly lower for children living with two married biological parents compared to children living in all other conditions. An estimated 1.9 per 1,000 children living with two married biological parents suffered Harm Standard physical abuse, compared to 5.9 or more per 1,000 children in other circumstances. In addition, children whose single parent had an unmarried, live–in partner were at significantly higher risk of Harm Standard physical abuse (19.5 children per 1,000)...

NZ statistics show that Maori are more likely to have  an unmarried, live–in partner. Which takes us back to the disproportion of child abuse and neglect amongst their children.

What does need pointing out perhaps is that the vast bulk of children - both Maori and Pakeha - are not abused or neglected.

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