Increase in gas prices associated with increase in child maltreatment

March 30, 2017 by Neil Schoenherr, Washington University in St. Louis
Credit: Washington University in St. Louis

Increases in gasoline prices are associated with increases in child maltreatment referral rates, finds a new study from the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis.

"Because fluctuations in the price of gas affect the amount of available to families, the results suggest that changes in disposable income predict changes in child maltreatment," said Michael McLaughlin, doctoral student and author of the study "Less Money, More Problems: How Changes in Disposable Income Affect Child Maltreatment," published in the upcoming May issue of the journal Child Abuse & Neglect.

"Due to the nonexperimental nature of this study, one cannot conclude that changes in directly cause changes in the incidence of child maltreatment," McLaughlin said.

"A spike in the price of gas, however, is an important exogenous shock to families' income that may result in parental stress, material hardship, or other factors that commonly lead to child abuse or neglect."

Each year, more than six million children in the United States are reported to Child Protective Services for child abuse and/or neglect. The cost of this maltreatment was estimated at $124 billion in 2010.

An increase in gas prices makes families worse off financially and potentially increases and neglect, the study finds. The price of gas is not only useful as an exogenous shock to families' disposable income, but also an important economic indicator that has been linked to a number of social outcomes. Gas prices are associated with rates of physical activity, obesity and life satisfaction.

The study focused on annual national data reports from 2000-2010 on both referrals and average .

"Money matters to families, and economic fluctuations could lead to an increased number of children being placed in harm's way," McLaughlin said. "This knowledge is critical because it informs child protection workers regarding child welfare risk factors and provides legislators with information relevant to family policy."

Explore further: Important new insights into the influence of poverty on child maltreatment

More information: Michael McLaughlin. Less money, more problems: How changes in disposable income affect child maltreatment, Child Abuse & Neglect (2017). DOI: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2017.03.006

Related Stories

One in three children investigated for abuse/neglect by 18

December 21, 2016

The first academic study to estimate the cumulative lifetime risk of a child maltreatment investigation, completed by researchers at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis, reveals that 37 percent of U.S. ...

Know the signs of child abuse

April 13, 2015

(HealthDay)—A report of child abuse is made every 10 seconds in the United States, and more than 1,600 children die each year from abuse or neglect, an expert says.

Recommended for you

Oldest evidence for animals found

October 15, 2018

Researchers at the University of California, Riverside, have found the oldest clue yet of animal life, dating back at least 100 million years before the famous Cambrian explosion of animal fossils.

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Mar 30, 2017
All this shows is when people get upset (about Anything), they take it out on their children.
The so-called "triggers" could be as meaningless as a hang nail.
Those who mistreat children, the most vulnerable of groups, should have their children removed from them and be neutered and spayed.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.