Identifying predictors of recorded child maltreatment and admission to care, using data from a birth cohort study

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This study aimed to identify predictors of recorded child maltreatment and children’s admission to care, through the longitudinal analysis of data from a large birth cohort study, linked to administrative data on abuse and neglect. The study forms part of a wider study examining decision-making and outcomes for maltreated children, which is funded by the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council. Child maltreatment is known to be associated with several factors including deprivation, domestic violence and parental substance misuse, however little is known about the complex relationship between these variables. Furthermore, the majority of studies in child welfare research use cross-sectional designs, due to difficulties in collecting data on children and their families before they come into contact with the child protection system. This study provided a unique opportunity to examine children’s family circumstances prior to their involvement with social workers, drawing on data from the Born in Bradford project, a cohort study of 13,500 children born between March 2007 and December 2010 in Bradford, a city in the north of England with a multi-ethnic population.

This study used a catch-up design, linking together two types of pre-existing data collected at different time points: (i) data from questionnaires administered to expectant mothers during antenatal appointments for the Born in Bradford project, and (ii) administrative data held by Bradford local authority on young children who have been identified as children in need of social care services due to abuse or neglect. This study is the first to collect pre-birth data on children who subsequently come into contact with the child protection system for reasons of abuse or neglect.

Measures of maternal and family characteristics captured at the antenatal stage were compared between a group of young children with recorded abuse and neglect, and a larger group of young children with no recorded abuse or neglect. Comparisons were also made between young children who had entered care for reasons of abuse or neglect, and those who hadn’t. Findings suggested that compared to mothers of children with no recorded abuse or neglect, mothers of children with recorded abuse or neglect were more likely to be of white ethnic origin, to be from a deprived background, to have been living without the baby’s father during pregnancy, to have used drugs during pregnancy, and to have had a minor psychiatric disorder during pregnancy.

This paper presents important new findings on factors evident at the antenatal stage which indicate a higher risk of subsequent abuse or neglect. These findings will advance scientific understanding of risk and protective factors in relation to child maltreatment and inform future social care interventions with children and families.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 15 Sept 2016
EventEUSARF 2016: Shaping the Future - Oviedo, Spain
Duration: 13 Sept 201616 Sept 2016


ConferenceEUSARF 2016


  • predictors
  • child maltreatment
  • cohort

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