Rural child maltreatment: A scoping literature review.

Author(s): 
Maguire-Jack, K., Jespersen, B., Korbin, J.E., & Spilsbury, J.C. (2020)
Source: 
Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, 1 -10
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Summary: 

The current study sought to review existing knowledge on rural child maltreatment. A scoping literature review was conducted to answer whether maltreatment is higher in rural areas compared to urban areas and whether there are unique correlates of maltreatment in rural areas. Of the studies reviewed, five reported higher rates of maltreatment in rural areas, four reported higher rates in urban areas. Overall, child maltreatment rates tended to be higher in urban areas among people of color and higher in rural areas among White people.

Expanded Abstract: 

Child abuse and neglect are significant issues in the United States, with one in three children subject to a child protective services investigation by their 18th birthday (Kim et al., 2016). Maltreatment is associated with a host of negative outcomes for children, lasting long into adulthood, including higher rates of depression, anxiety, behavior disorders, suicide attempts, drug use, and risky sexual behaviors (Norman et al., 2012). There is wide variation in maltreatment rates across geographic areas, and understanding the causes of this variation has been the subject of much research. However, our knowledge about maltreatment and factors that shape it is largely urban-based.

The current study sought to review the state of existing knowledge on rural maltreatment. A scoping literature review was conducted to answer two research questions: (1) Is maltreatment higher in rural areas compared to urban areas? and 2) Are there unique correlates of maltreatment in rural areas? This review included studies that compared child maltreatment in rural and urban areas in the United States and predictors of maltreatment in rural areas. The second research question, related to understanding maltreatment in rural areas, included those studies that exclusively examined rural areas, when maltreatment was the outcome variable. Studies were reviewed from relevant databases (Annual Reviews, PsychINFO, PubMed, Web of Science) between 1975 and 2019. Major Findings: Findings were mixed on whether rates of maltreatment were higher or lower in rural areas. While five studies reported higher rates of maltreatment in rural areas, four reported higher rates in urban areas. Overall, child maltreatment rates tended to be higher in urban areas among people of color and higher in rural areas among White people. One study found that community economic factors were not related to maltreatment in a rural area, in stark contrast to robust findings from urban areas.

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