Canadian Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect: Methodology

Article excerpt


This article describes the methodology of the first Canada-wide study of the incidence and characteristics of reported child abuse and neglect. Child welfare investigators from a random sample of 51 child welfare service areas completed a three-page survey form describing the results of 7,672 child maltreatment reports received during the months of October to December 1998. The study documented a 90% participation rate and a 95% item completion rate. An estimated 135,571 child maltreatment investigations were completed, a rate of 21.52 investigated children per 1,000 children in Canada in 1998. The Canadian Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect is a rich database that will provide researchers with important contextual information on reported child maltreatment in Canada and a comprehensive source of information on factors associated with key service decisions made by child welfare investigators.


Cet article presence la methode de la premiere etude pancanadienne de (incidence et des caracteristiques des rapports de mauvais traitements et de negligence envers les enfants. Des enqueteurs de 51 secteurs de service de protection de l'enfance selectionnes au hasard ont decrit, dans un questionnaire de trois pages, les resultats de 7 672 rapports de violence envers les enfants presentes entre octobre et decembre 1998. Le taux de participation etait de 90 %, et le taux de reponse, de 95 %. En 1998 au Canada, on aurait fait enquete sur 135 571 cas de violence envers les enfants, soit 21,52 enquetes pour 1 000 enfants. Cette etude constitue une riche base de donnees qui offre d'imporrants renseignements contextuels sur les cas de violence envers les enfants signales au Canada, ainsi qu'une source exhaustive d'information sur les facteurs associes aux decisions prises par les services de protection.

There currently is no source of comprehensive, Canada-wide statistics on children and families investigated because of suspected child abuse and neglect. In Canada most child maltreatment statistics are kept on a provincial or territorial basis. Differences both in definitions of maltreatment and methods for counting cases mean that it is not possible to aggregate provincial and territorial statistics.' The amount of information collected at the provincial and territorial level is itself very limited, providing few details on children and families investigated by child welfare services. This paucity of provincial and national data hampers the ability of governments and social service providers to develop national and regional policies and programs that address child maltreatment. The absence of uniform national data is also a major obstacle for child maltreatment researchers who do not have access to the epidemiological data needed to contextualize findings based on clinical samples.

The only Canada-wide child maltreatment study that has been conducted examined the self-reported childhood prevalence of sexual abuse in a nationally representative sample of adult men and women.2 In addition, several province-wide population prevalence studies examining self-reported physical and sexual abuse have been conducted.3,4 While these studies provide critical information about prevalence and correlates of child physical and sexual abuse, they do not include information on cases that are reported to child welfare authorities, and do not cover neglect or emotional maltreatment. The 1993 Ontario Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect (OIS) is the only provincewide study to examine the full range of forms of maltreatment investigated by child welfare authorities and a precursor of the present study.5

Child maltreatment statistics are limited in most countries with the exception of the United States. In addition to numerous population based prevalence studies, there are two major sources of statistics on reported child maltreatment in the United States. The National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS) provides the most extensive annual statistics on investigated maltreatment in the United States. …