global perspectives box 3.1 child maltreatment in Israel

In 1989, Israel joined the handful of nations that enacted legislation requiring the reporting of suspected child abuse and neglect. The criminal code was amended, making it mandatory to report any reasonable suspicion of instances of children at risk of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse as well as children whose physical needs were neglected. Reports would be made to the police or to a social services “child protection officer.”

Asher Ben-Arieh and Muhammad Haj-Yahia (2006) collected data on reported child maltreatment. The researchers contacted the directors of all 276 localities in Israel that receive reports of suspected maltreatment. The researchers followed up initial requests for data multiple times, and 184 of the localities provided data.

The agencies received 31,168 reports of suspected maltreatment in the year 2000. Projecting to the total population, Ben-Arieh and Haj-Yahia estimated that 37,500 children were subjects of child abuse and neglect reports in the country.

The rate of reported child maltreatment was surprisingly high. The rate of reported maltreatment in Israel in 2000 was 17.8 children per 1,000. This compares to a rate of 11.8 per 1,000 in the United States and 2.6 per 1,000 in the United Kingdom. The largest category of reports was neglect (34.6%), followed by physical abuse (30.5%).

The distribution of suspected maltreatment was also something of a surprise. Geographic areas that were primarily Jewish reported rates of 20.1 per 1,000. The lowest rate of reported maltreatment was in primarily Arab localities, where the rate was 9.2 per 1,000. Equally surprising was that the rate of reported maltreatment was highest in affluent neighborhoods (18.9 per 1,000), compared to disadvantaged neighborhoods (13.1). Finally, although the number of maltreatment reports is low (n = 34), the rate of kibbutzim was the highest for type of localities (29.6 per 1,000).

Keeping in mind that the data are about suspected and reported maltreatment and not the actual occurrence of child abuse or neglect, the data from Israel suggest that reporting is influenced by the availability of service organizations, the willingness of individuals to make reports, and the amount of surveillance available.

Source: Ben-Arieh, A., & Haj-Yahia, M. M. (2006). The “geography” of child maltreatment in Israel: Findings from a national data set of cases reported to the social services. Child Abuse and Neglect, 30, 991-1003.

The federal Office of Child Abuse and Neglect has a second means of assessing the extent of child maltreatment in the United States. There have now been four National Incidence Surveys of Child Abuse and Neglect that survey a nationally representative sample of professionals—physicians, nurses, social workers, teachers, and others—and ask respondents to report on recognized and reported cases of child maltreatment (Burgdorf, 1980; National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect [NCCAN], 1988, 1996; Sedlak, Mettenburg, Basena, Petta, McPherson, Greene, & Li, 2010). A total of 1.25 million maltreated children were known by the agencies surveyed in 2005-2006.5 (See Table 3.1.)

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