The Great Recession and risk for child abuse and neglect

Publication Year


Journal Article
This paper examines the association between the Great Recession and four measures of the risk for maternal child abuse and neglect: (1) maternal physical aggression; (2) maternal psychological aggression; (3) physical neglect by mothers; and (4) supervisory/exposure neglect by mothers. It draws on rich longitudinal data from the Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study, a longitudinal birth cohort study of families in 20 U.S. cities (N = 3177; 50% African American, 25% Hispanic; 22% non-Hispanic white; 3% other). The study collected information for the 9-year follow-up survey before, during, and after the Great Recession (2007–2010). Interview dates were linked to two macroeconomic measures of the Great Recession: the national Consumer Sentiment Index and the local unemployment rate. Also included are a wide range of socio-demographic controls, as well as city fixed effects and controls for prior parenting. Results indicate that the Great Recession was associated with increased risk of child abuse but decreased risk of child neglect. Households with social fathers present may have been particularly adversely affected. Results also indicate that economic uncertainty during the Great Recession, as measured by the Consumer Sentiment Index and the unemployment rate, had direct effects on the risk of abuse or neglect, which were not mediated by individual-level measures of economic hardship or poor mental health.
Children and Youth Services Review