Objective: This study examines how the availability of alcohol and illicit drugs (as measured by alcohol outlet density and police incidents of drug sales and possessions) is related to neighborhood rates of child abuse and neglect, controlling for other neighborhood demographic characteristics.
Method: Data from substantiated reports of child abuse and neglect in 304 block groups in a northern California city were analyzed using spatial regression techniques.
Results: This study found that higher concentration of bars (B=6.66, p<.05) and higher numbers of incidents of drug possession (B=.53, p<.001) were positively related to rates of child maltreatment in neighborhoods when controlling for neighborhood demographic characteristics. Thus, areas with more bars and drug possession incidents per 1000 population have higher rates of child maltreatment.
Conclusions: The presence of more bars per population may represent a lack of resources available to residents, may increase the stress on neighborhoods by "attracting" populations prone to participating in dangerous activities, or increase the frequency of alcohol use that then leads to maltreatment. Areas with more drug possession incidents may also contribute to the overall level of neighborhood stress and disorganization or act as a marker for drug use that leads to maltreatment. These results suggest that the neighborhood substance availability may deserve special attention when developing preventive interventions to reduce child abuse and neglect in neighborhood areas.