Childhood Studies Child Maltreatment
Jill E. Korbin, Kathryn Maguire-Jack, James C. Spilsbury
  • LAST REVIEWED: 01 July 2021
  • LAST MODIFIED: 21 February 2022
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791231-0043


Child maltreatment has been described throughout history and across cultures. The term “maltreatment” has come to include a range of behaviors that frequently co-occur. These include physical abuse, neglect, sexual abuse, emotional or psychological abuse, fatal abuse, exploitative child labor, and child prostitution. Definitions of child maltreatment may vary across time and across cultural contexts. An ecological perspective on child maltreatment recognizes the contribution of factors at the individual, family, community, and cultural levels in the etiology and therefore the prevention and remediation of the consequences of child maltreatment. Consequences of child maltreatment vary depending on risk and protective factors. Research has shown that maltreated children are at increased risk for a range of negative outcomes, including delinquency, crime, and ill health. However, protective factors can mitigate the impact of maltreatment.

General Overviews

Child maltreatment is a multidisciplinary field as reflected in a number of general overviews and reference works. National Research Council 1993 represents a comprehensive review of the field to the date of its publication. Peterson, et al. 2014 revisits the 1993 National Research Council report and suggests a national strategy for improving child maltreatment research. Jonson-Reid and Drake 2018 updates knowledge and considers controversies specifically from the United States. Two updated and revised handbooks, Klika and Conte 2018 and Krugman and Korbin 2022, review current knowledge and suggest future directions to move the field forward.

  • Jonson-Reid, Melissa, and Brett Drake. After the Cradle Falls: What Child Abuse Is, How We Respond to It, and What You Can Do about It. New York: Oxford University Press, 2018.

    Summarizes current understandings and controversies about child maltreatment in the United States and considers how empirical evidence bears on potential practice and policy efforts and solutions.

  • Klika, J. Bart, and Jon Conte, eds. The APSAC Handbook on Child Maltreatment. 4th ed. Los Angeles: SAGE, 2018.

    The most recent edition of a comprehensive volume for both researchers and practitioners. Its twenty-four chapters by experts in the field include historical and international perspectives, types of child maltreatment, and approaches to prevention and intervention.

  • Krugman, Richard D., and Jill E. Korbin, eds. Handbook of Child Maltreatment. 2d ed. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer, 2022.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-94-007-7208-3

    Thirty-seven chapters by experts in the field provide cutting-edge research on the occurrence, etiology, and consequences of child maltreatment; approaches to prevention and intervention; overviews of the major types of maltreatment; and international and global perspectives. The volume offers evidence-based future directions for research and policy.

  • National Research Council. Understanding Child Abuse and Neglect. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1993.

    Written by a national panel of US experts and using an ecological developmental framework, this book is a major compendium of research on child maltreatment. A comprehensive treatment of child maltreatment, including definitions, epidemiology, etiology, prevention, treatment, consequences, interventions, and ethics, concluding with priorities for future research.

  • Peterson, Anne, Joshua Joseph, and Monica Feit, eds. New Directions in Child Abuse and Neglect Research. By Institute of Medicine and National Research Council. Washington, DC: National Academies Press, 2014.

    A national panel of experts revisited the 1993 National Research Council report and suggested a national strategy for child maltreatment research and policy with a focus on comprehensive multidisciplinary approaches and a national strategy that improves infrastructure, surveillance, and program and policy responses.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.