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  May 2001

Crimes against ChildrenChild Abuse Reported to the Police

David Finkelhor and Richard Ormrod


Identifying Child Abuse in NIBRS Data

Characteristics of Child Abuse Reported by NIBRS

Comparing NIBRS and Child Welfare System Data

Policy Implications



This Bulletin was prepared under grant number 98–JN–FX–0012 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 Justice.
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 gap.

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 NIBRS data.

To fully comprehend the harm that child abuse inflicts on children, policymakers need a clearer understanding of the role law enforcement plays—and could play—in addressing the problem of child maltreatment.

The NIBRS data described in this Bulletin contribute to increasing that understanding and clarify law enforcement’s critical role.



This Bulletin was written by David Finkelhor, Ph.D., Professor of Sociology, and Director, Crimes against Children Research Center, University of New Hampshire; and Richard Ormrod, Ph.D., Research Professor, Crimes against Children Research Center, University of New Hampshire.

NCJ 187238

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