Is elevated risk of child maltreatment in immigrant families associated with socioeconomic status? Evidence from three sources

Int J Psychol. 2013;48(2):117-27. doi: 10.1080/00207594.2012.734622.


In this study we tested whether children from Dutch-immigrant families are at increased risk for maltreatment, and if so, what factors could explain this risk. Three data sources from the second Netherlands Prevalence Study of Maltreatment of Youth (NPM-2010) were used to answer these questions. First, 1127 professionals from various occupational branches (sentinels) were asked to report each child (including some background information on the child and family) for whom they suspected child maltreatment during a period of three months. Second, we included the 2010 data from the Dutch Child Protective Services and third, 1759 high school students aged 11-17 years filled out a questionnaire on their experiences of maltreatment in the past year. We found that children from traditional immigrant families with a relatively long migration history in the Netherlands (Turkish, Moroccan, Surinamese, and Antillean) and from nontraditional immigrant families (African [except Morocco], Eastern European, Central Asian, and South and Central American; often refugees) were at increased risk for child maltreatment compared to native Dutch families. However, in the professionals' and CPS data this risk disappeared for the traditional immigrant families after correction for educational level of the parents and for step-parenthood. Within the group of families with low education or step-parents, the risk for child maltreatment was similar for traditional immigrant families as for native Dutch families. Nontraditional families remained at increased risk after correction for sociodemographic and family factors. In conclusion, we found that children from both traditional and nontraditional immigrant families are at increased risk for maltreatment as compared to children from native Dutch families. For the traditional immigrants this risk could partially be explained by socioeconomic status. This implies that socioeconomic factors should be taken into account when outlining policies to fight child maltreatment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child Abuse / statistics & numerical data*
  • Child Welfare* / statistics & numerical data
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Educational Status
  • Emigrants and Immigrants / statistics & numerical data*
  • Ethnic Groups / statistics & numerical data*
  • Family
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Netherlands / epidemiology
  • Parents*
  • Poverty
  • Risk Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires