Distinguishing Characteristics and Disparities in Child Protective Services-Investigated Maltreatment by Fathers

Julia M. Kobulsky, Rachel Wildfeuer, Susan Yoon, Jamie Cage

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


This study examines distinguishing characteristics of father-perpetrated maltreatment and disparities in Child Protective Services (CPS) investigation outcomes based on perpetrator gender and race. A sample of children (N = 2,017) reported to CPS for maltreatment attributed to their mother and/or father was drawn from the second National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-being (NSCAW II). Measures included perpetrator(s) relationship to the child (mother alone, father alone, mother and father) and race (Black, White, Other), caseworker-reported maltreatment characteristics and co-occurring risk factors, and CPS investigation outcomes (services, substantiation, out-of-home placement, criminal investigation, and criminal charges). Bivariate analyses revealed no clear pattern of higher risk for maltreatment involving fathers. In regression, father-alone perpetration predicted less out-of-home placement but more criminal investigations and charges. A significant interaction indicated the greatest risk for criminal charges when a Black father co-perpetrated maltreatment with mother. Findings imply needs for anti-bias training, specialized services for fathers, and coordinated diversion between child welfare and criminal justice systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)182-194
Number of pages13
JournalChild Maltreatment
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We are grateful to Mosi Adesina Ifatunji for his generous consultation on race theory, which assisted in the development of this manuscript. The data utilized in this study were made available (in part) by the National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect, Cornell University, Ithaca New York. Funding support for preparing the data for public distribution was provided by a contract (90-CA-1370) between the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect and Cornell University. Neither the collector of the original data, funding agency, nor the National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect bears any responsibility for the analyses or interpretations presented here. The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This research was supported in part by a grant from the Fatherhood Research to Practice Network.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2020.


  • child maltreatment
  • child protective services system
  • gender disparities
  • intersectionality
  • maltreatment characteristics
  • race disparities


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