Statutory Threshold Wording is Associated with Child Maltreatment Reporting

Hannah A. Piersiak, Benjamin H. Levi, Kathryn L. Humphreys

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The purpose of this study was to determine whether statutory wording of child maltreatment mandated reporting legislation was associated with reporting patterns and substantiation of abuse across U.S. states and territories. Annual state averages for total referrals, referrals screened-out, referrals screened-in, referrals substantiated, and child population (all children in the U.S.; annual average = 74,457,928) were obtained from the 2010-2017 Child Maltreatment Reports. Odds ratios were calculated for: (1) two major statutory language frameworks (suspicion versus belief), (2) seven sub-categories (e.g., suspect, reasonably believe, etc.), and (3) universal mandated reporting (yes versus no). Use of suspicion (versus belief) was associated with higher rates of referrals made (OR = 1.13) and screened-in (OR = 1.13), but lower substantiation rates (OR =.92). States using universal mandated reporting (versus those who did not) had slightly lower rates of referrals (OR =.99), but higher rates of referrals screened-in (OR = 1.16) and substantiated (OR = 1.06). Differences in statutory wording are associated with variability in reports, suggesting the possibility that statutory wording is one factor involved with these differences. However, future research is needed to explore alternative contributing factors and/or explanations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)517-526
Number of pages10
JournalChild Maltreatment
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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