Racialized perceptions and child neglect

Sheila D. Ards, Samuel L. Myers, Patricia Ray, Hyeon Eui Kim, Kevin Monroe, Irma Arteaga

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    40 Scopus citations


    This paper models racialized perceptions of child welfare workers and tests the hypothesis that these perceptions contribute to the racial disproportionality in reported and/or substantiated child maltreatment. A method is adopted which captures the salient features of racial stereotypes deriving from visual representations of neglectful situations that meet state definitions of child maltreatment and reportable offenses. Caseworkers are shown pictures of a neglectful situation that randomly varies with respect to whether a child in the picture is black or white or whether there is no child at all pictured. If things that "look black" are more likely to be perceived of by caseworkers as reportable offenses or to meet state definitions of child maltreatment than things that "look white," then this indicates racialized perceptions. Data are collected from a sample of all caseworkers from every county in Minnesota for 2005.Linear and logistic fixed effects models are estimated for the responses as to whether the situation in the picture meets the state definition and whether the offense is reportable. Independent variables include: the respondent's age, gender, and race; whether the respondent was born in the Twin Cities, majored in social work, was an intake worker, or worked in Hennepin County. The results show statistically significant impacts of the black baby vignette (compared to no baby or white baby) on the likelihood that respondents agree that the situation depicted in the picture meets the state definition of neglect and is reportable.Also estimated are the impacts of these racialized beliefs on racial disproportionalities in reported and substantiated child maltreatment rates across counties. There are strong and statistically significant impacts of indices of caseworker racialized beliefs on racial disproporationalities in reported and substantiated maltreatment rates.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)1480-1491
    Number of pages12
    JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
    Issue number8
    StatePublished - Aug 2012

    Bibliographical note

    Funding Information:
    Research funding was provided by the National Institute of Health (NIH) for the grant, Research on Child Neglect, R01MH61754-01 . The contents of this paper are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH.


    • Bias in reporting and substantiating child maltreatment
    • Child neglect disparities
    • Racial disproportionality


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