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.


Crimes Against Children Research Center, Sociology

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Juvenile Justice Bulletin


United States Department of Justice

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