Child Abuse Reported to the Police
David Finkelhor and Richard Ormrod
Identifying Child Abuse
in NIBRS Data
Child Abuse Reported by NIBRS
and Child Welfare System Data
This Bulletin was prepared under grant
number 98JNFX0012 from the Office of
Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention,
U.S. Department of Justice.
Points of view or opinions expressed in this
document are those of the authors and do not
necessarily represent the official position or
policies of OJJDP or the U.S. Department of
The Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency
Prevention is a component of the Office
of Justice Programs, which also includes
the Bureau of Justice Assistance, the Bureau
of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of
Justice, and the Office for Victims of Crime.
|A Message From OJJDP|
Child abuse is commonly regarded
as a child welfare problem, and a
considerable amount of information
has been amassed from this perspective.
When a child is assaulted,
however, it is not only a child welfare
problem, it is a crime, and yet there
is a lack of law enforcement data
available for researchers to analyze.
Use of the National Incident-Based
Reporting System (NIBRS), which
collects detailed data about crime
and its victims, should help fill this
This Bulletin describes NIBRS and its
role in depicting police experience
with child abuse and reports key findings
derived from NIBRS data. Analysis
of these data indicates that parents
and other caretakers commit 49
percent of the kidnapings and 27 percent
of the sexual assaults of juveniles.
These and other caretaker
offenses are reviewed in these pages.
The Bulletin also offers an informative
comparison of NIBRS and child
welfare system data and discusses
the policy implications arising from
To fully comprehend the harm that
child abuse inflicts on children, policymakers
need a clearer understanding
of the role law enforcement playsand could playin addressing the
problem of child maltreatment.
The NIBRS data described in this
Bulletin contribute to increasing that
understanding and clarify law enforcement’s