Family Resources, Family Structure, Public Policies, and Child Maltreatment Risk: A Longitudinal Analysis

Lawrence M. Berger, Princeton University

There is limited research on the mechanisms through which poverty and child maltreatment are connected. This paper uses data from the NLSY to estimate the effects of family resources, family structures, and public policies on child maltreatment risk. These relationships are also explored over time using child fixed-effects models. "Maltreatment risk" is operationalized in terms of the adequacy of the child's physical environment, emotional and cognitive support, parental spanking behaviors, and medical care. Preliminary results suggest that income and poverty impact routine medical and dental care, the quality of the caregiving environment, and spanking behaviors. In addition, single-parent families and families with a biological mother and non-biological father figure tend have lower quality caregiving environments than mother-father families, and changes in family structure tend to put children at greater risk of maltreatment. Finally, this analysis provides some evidence that more generous welfare policies may serve as protective factors for children.

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Presented in Session 78: Family Structure and Child Outcomes