Objectives: We examined the concordance between measures of self-reported maltreatment and court records of abuse or neglect in a sample of detained youths.
Methods: Data were collected by the Northwestern Juvenile Project and include interviews from 1829 youths aged 10-18 years. Participants were newly detained youths in the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center in Illinois between 1995 and 1998. Self-reported cases of child maltreatment were compared with court records of abuse or neglect in the Cook County judicial system.
Results: We found that among detained youths, 16.6% of those who reported any maltreatment, 22.2% of those who reported the highest level of maltreatment, and 25.1% of those who reported that they required medical treatment as a result of maltreatment had a court record of abuse or neglect. Among those with any self-reported maltreatment, girls (vs boys) and African Americans (vs Whites) were more likely to have a court record (adjusted odds ratio [AOR]=2.18; 95% confidence interval [CI]=1.53, 3.09; and AOR=2.12; 95% CI=1.23, 3.63, respectively).
Conclusions: Official records seriously underestimate the prevalence of maltreatment, which indicates that multiple data sources are needed to document the true prevalence of maltreatment.