Date of Publication


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Urban Studies


Urban Studies and Planning




Child abuse -- Oregon -- Multnomah County



Physical Description

xii, 160 leaves 28 cm.


Child abuse is a significant contemporary community problem. Child abuse authorities are divided over the question of whether public intervention in the child abuse problem should be executed by law enforcement or social services agencies. Many jurisdictions, such as Multnomah County, Oregon, reflect this basic disagreement by authorizing the involvement of both of these agencies. The purpose of this study was to determine whether there is a relationship between what happens to child abuse victims, their families, and the perpetrators and the community agency - law enforcement or social services (the Children's Services Division)-which investigated the case. Data were collected from the population of child abuse reports originating from Multnomah County between September, 1975 and January, 1977. These data included:(1) the pertinent demographic characteristics of the study population; (2) the community sources that reported the suspected abuse; (3) the agencies that received and investigated those reports; and (4) the disposition of the cases. In order to test the study hypothesis, the investigating agency was related to the disposition of the child abuse cases. The study data indicated that the disposition of reported child abuse was related to the agency which investigated the cases. Specifically, the cases investigated by a law enforcement agency compared with the Children's Services Division were more likely to result in the removal of the victims from their home. In contrast, social service referrals for their families and community action directed to the perpetrators were more likely when the cases were investigated by the Children's Services Division compared to a law enforcement agency. When the cases were investigated jointly by the Children's Services Division and a law enforcement agency, the abuse victims were most likely to be separated from their families, the families were most likely to be referred for social services, and community action was most likely to be directed to the perpetrators. Since disposition may be directly related to characteristics of the study population, the relationship between disposition and investigating agency was controlled for these characteristics. The controlled analysis of the data generally confirmed the findings of the study, but revealed that (1) disposition was directly associated with certain characteristics of the population and (2) the relationship between disposition and investigating agency was modified by several characteristics. These findings, however, are largely harmonized to the general study findings when interpreted in light of the structure of the community's child abuse "system" and the interrelationships among the characteristics of the population. The study findings lead to the conclusion that a choice of agencies to investigate child abuse reports results in differential, and perhaps unequal treatment of child abuse victims, their families and the perpetrators.


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Portland State University. School of Urban Affairs.

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