Childhood Studies Child Maltreatment
Jill E. Korbin
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 April 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 July 2014
  • 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

The topic of child maltreatment is multidisciplinary and, as such, the best general overviews and reference works tend to be edited volumes from multiple perspectives. Dubowitz and DePanfilis 2000 and Reece 2000 are oriented toward practitioners, while Helfer, et al. 1997; Myers 2011; and Wilson and James 2007 are oriented toward both researchers and practitioners working in the field. Helfer, et al. 1997 is the most recent edition of the classic book in the field. 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. Finkelhor 2008 summarizes important trends in child maltreatment and directs attention to the multifaceted nature of child maltreatment. Krugman and Korbin 2013 and Korbin and Krugman 2014 are the first two books in a new series on child maltreatment; the first assesses the legacy of the field, and the second reviews current knowledge and suggests future directions to move the field forward.

  • Dubowitz, Howard, and Diane DePanfilis, eds. Handbook for Child Protection Practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE, 2000.

    In 124 chapters and twelve appendices, this handbook is organized around practical questions of child protection, addressing questions of how to work with maltreated children and their families as well as dealing with involved social, medical, and legal systems.

  • Finkelhor, David. Childhood Victimization: Violence, Crime, and Abuse in the Lives of Young People. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195342857.001.0001

    Using the framework of “developmental victimology,” this book argues against focusing on specific forms of violence (e.g., physical or sexual abuse) and instead looks more broadly at multiple forms of child victimization across the different stages of childhood. Examines the interconnections among different forms of victimization and impacts on children.

  • Helfer, Mary E., Ruth Kempe, and Richard Krugman, eds. The Battered Child. 5th ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997.

    The most recent edition of the classic work and major resource on child maltreatment. Chapters in the book consider the types, causes, diagnosis, dynamics, prevention, treatment, and cultural issues in child abuse and neglect. Early editions are also recommended.

  • Korbin, Jill E., and Richard D. Krugman, eds. Handbook of Child Maltreatment. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer, 2014.

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

    Chapters by experts in the field examine the occurrence, etiology, and consequences of child maltreatment and propose future directions in research and policy,

  • Krugman, Richard D., and Jill E. Korbin, eds. C. Henry Kempe: A 50 Year Legacy to the Field of Child Abuse and Neglect. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer, 2013.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-94-007-4084-6

    Four of C. Henry Kempe’s publications formed the basis for chapter authors’ commentary on the legacy of the field over the fifty years since the publication of the landmark paper Kempe, et al. 1962 (cited under History), which coined the term “the battered child syndrome.”

  • Myers, John E. B., ed. The APSAC Handbook of Child Maltreatment. 3d ed. Los Angeles: SAGE, 2011.

    The most recent edition of a comprehensive volume for both researchers and practitioners. Organized into the following sections: the child protection system; three forms of maltreatment (neglect, physical abuse, and sexual abuse); and issues in maltreatment investigations including interviewing children and legal issues.

  • 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. Examines all aspects 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.

  • Reece, Robert, ed. Treatment of Child Abuse: Common Ground for Mental Health, Medical, and Legal Practitioners. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000.

    Examines best standards for medical management, psychosocial treatment and long-term management of sexual and physical abuse, neglect, multiple forms of victimization, and Munchausen by Proxy syndrome. Considers legal disposition of cases and management of consequences of abuse for the developing child.

  • Wilson, Kate, and Adrian James, eds. Child Protection Handbook: The Practitioner’s Guide to Safeguarding Children. 3d ed. London and Edinburgh: Elsevier, 2007.

    The primary goal of this book is to bring current knowledge to practical applications. Organized into three sections: understanding the causes and dynamics of child maltreatment; managing various institutions and systems including schools, health care, and courts; and intervention and treatment approaches. All chapters include key points for practice.

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