Objective: To examine whether children with substantiated maltreatment reports between 4 and 8 years of age differ from children with unsubstantiated reports on any of 10 behavioral and developmental outcomes.
Method: Longitudinal data from 806 children and their adult caregivers collected in four US study sites were pooled and analyzed using Analysis of Variance (ANOVA) and multivariate linear regression.
Results: There were no significant differences between the mean scores of children with unsubstantiated and substantiated maltreatment reports filed between 4 and 8 years of age for any of the 10 behavioral and developmental outcomes. In the multivariate analysis, substantiation status was not significantly associated with any of the 10 outcomes after adjusting for prior functioning, prior maltreatment status, and sociodemographic characteristics. Findings from within-site analyses were generally consistent with the pooled analyses in finding no association between substantiation status and the outcomes examined.
Conclusions: In this high-risk sample, the behavioral and developmental outcomes of 8-year-old children with unsubstantiated and substantiated maltreatment reports filed between ages 4 and 8 were indistinguishable. Future research should attempt to replicate these findings on probability samples that represent the full range of childhood maltreatment risk and with models that control for the impact of social services.