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Children With Disabilities At Higher Risk of Maltreatment Or Neglect, Study Shows

Children with intellectual disability, conduct disorder and mental and behavioral problems are at an increased risk of neglect or maltreatment, with the exception of those diagnosed with autism and Down syndrome, according to a new study. The study, “Maltreatment Risk among Children with Disabilities,” to be published in the April 2017 issue of Pediatrics (online March 6) analyzed 524,534 children born in Western Australia between 1990-2010. Overall, 4.6 percent of children had a maltreatment allegation, as identified by data reported to the Department for Child Protection and Family Support. While children with disabilities make up 10.4 percent of the total Western Australia population, they accounted for one in four maltreatment allegations (25.4 percent) and one in three substantiated allegations (29 percent.) The disproportionate representation of children with disabilities in maltreatment allegations are consistent with international findings, according to the study. The increased risk of maltreatment, however, varied by disability type. Those at highest risk were children with an intellectual disability, mental and behavioral problem or conduct disorder. In contrast, children with autism showed a lower risk of maltreatment, and children with Down syndrome, birth defects or cerebral palsy displayed the same risk as children without a disability. The authors conclude that there is a need for more social service interagency collaboration and support for families with children with disabilities.


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