Next Article in Journal
Young People’s Use of E-Cigarettes across the United Kingdom: Findings from Five Surveys 2015–2017
Next Article in Special Issue
The Effects of Socioeconomic Vulnerability, Psychosocial Services, and Social Service Spending on Family Reunification: A Multilevel Longitudinal Analysis
Previous Article in Journal
The Mediating Role of Psychological Capital on the Association between Occupational Stress and Job Satisfaction among Township Cadres in a Specific Province of China: A Cross-Sectional Study
Article Menu
Issue 9 (September) cover image

Export Article

Open AccessArticle
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2017, 14(9), 971; doi:10.3390/ijerph14090971

Surveillance Bias in Child Maltreatment: A Tempest in a Teapot

Brown School of Social Work and Public Health, Washington University in St. Louis, Campus Box 1196, Washington University in St. Louis, One Brookings Drive, Saint Louis, MO 63130, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 24 July 2017 / Revised: 16 August 2017 / Accepted: 18 August 2017 / Published: 28 August 2017
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Using Big Data to Advance Knowledge in Child Maltreatment)
View Full-Text   |   Download PDF [930 KB, uploaded 28 August 2017]   |  


Background: Children are believed to be more likely to be reported for maltreatment while they are working with mental health or social service professionals. This “surveillance bias” has been claimed to inflate reporting by fifty percent or more, and has been used to explain why interventions such as home visiting fail to reduce official maltreatment reporting rates. Methods: We use national child abuse reporting data (n = 825,763), supplemented by more detailed regional data from a multi-agency administrative data study (n = 7185). We determine the percentage of all re-reports made uniquely by mental health and social service providers within and across generations, the report sources which could be subject to surveillance bias. Results: At three years after the initial Child protective services (CPS) report, the total percentage of national reports uniquely made by mental health or social service providers is less than 10%, making it impossible that surveillance bias could massively inflate CPS reporting in this sample. Analysis of national data find evidence of a very small (+4.54%) initial surveillance bias “bump” among served cases which decays to +1.84% within three years. Our analysis of regional data showed similar or weaker effects. Conclusions: Surveillance bias effects appear to exist, but are very small. View Full-Text
Keywords: surveillance bias; child abuse and neglect; child maltreatment; nurse home visiting; visibility bias surveillance bias; child abuse and neglect; child maltreatment; nurse home visiting; visibility bias

Figure 1

This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

Supplementary material

Scifeed alert for new publications

Never miss any articles matching your research from any publisher
  • Get alerts for new papers matching your research
  • Find out the new papers from selected authors
  • Updated daily for 49'000+ journals and 6000+ publishers
  • Define your Scifeed now

SciFeed Share & Cite This Article

MDPI and ACS Style

Drake, B.; Jonson-Reid, M.; Kim, H. Surveillance Bias in Child Maltreatment: A Tempest in a Teapot. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2017, 14, 971.

Show more citation formats Show less citations formats

Note that from the first issue of 2016, MDPI journals use article numbers instead of page numbers. See further details here.

Related Articles

Article Metrics

Article Access Statistics



[Return to top]
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health EISSN 1660-4601 Published by MDPI AG, Basel, Switzerland RSS E-Mail Table of Contents Alert
Back to Top