Abusive and Neglectful Parenting Practices: Do They Differ by Race/Ethnicity?

  • Project status: In-Progress
  • Funded by: NIH National Center on Minority Health and Health Disparities, Loan Repayment Program

There is a growing a body of research examining the overrepresentation of Black children in the child welfare system and the increased social, behavioral and health problems for these children if they are placed in out of home care. Equally disturbing, however, is the dearth of information on child abuse and neglect rates among families of Asian descent. Although Asian children have negligible rates of maltreatment according to official statistics (2.4/1000 children), without general population statistics of this problem, there is no way to know the true risk of Asian children for abuse or neglect. Furthermore, this potentially represents an invisible and underserved population that is not identified by system resulting in increased negative outcomes for these children. On the other hand, if parents of Asian descent to participate in abusive and neglectful parenting practices at lower rates, understanding why this is the case can provide needed information on how to structure prevention efforts for these individuals.


  1. Ascertain population rates of child physical abuse, supervisory neglect, and physical neglect by race and ethnicity;
  2. Compare those rates with official reports of child maltreatment (by type of maltreatment and race/ethnicity) by city to determine if specific geographic locations are more or less likely to have overrepresentation of specific racial/ethnic groups in the child welfare system; and
  3. Examine individual and environmental conditions that may to contribute to these disparities.


This study will use data from 3,034 parents that were collected during March 2009 – October 2009 as part of NIAAA center grant P60-AA06282. A general population telephone survey of parents or legal guardians 18 years or older was conducted across 50 cities designated for the study (60 parents in each city). Participants were chosen from listed samples of addresses and telephone numbers of households. Participant pools generated from listed samples appear to be unbiased relative to random digit dialing techniques.

Parents were asked the Conflict Tactics Scale – Parent Child version (CTS-PC, physical abuse items), the Multidimendial Neglectful Behavior Scale for items on supervisory and physical neglect, as well as demographic information, alcohol and drug use, neighborhood participation and cohesion, impulsivity, depression, anxiety, and parenting stress. Items related to child physical abuse and neglect were asked via interactive voice response technology (IVR) and then encrypted in the data corresponding to the participant. IVR is a survey administration methodology that allows a survey participant to respond to a question from a computerized voice menu. This technology is used to elicit responses to sensitive questions and to maintain confidentiality.


This study is significant because the use of a general population survey of parents within these 50 communities allows us to provide detailed population estimates of rates of maltreatment and enhances generalizability. Further, because the study is conducted in California, the sample is diverse enough to allow comparison of child maltreatment between four racial and ethnic groups. The proposed study will extend knowledge on whether or not the racial/ethnic disparities that are seen in the child welfare system exist at the population level. Understanding whether or not abusive and neglectful parenting practices differ by race/ethnicity would be a huge step in determining the source of disparities of Black children in the child welfare system.