Canadian Research in Brief

Physical abuse among Asian families in the Canadian child welfare system

(2014), Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment and Trauma, 23(5): 532-551.

Lee, Barbara

Rha, Wendy

Fallon, Barbara

This study examined differences in case characteristics and service dispositions in substantiated physical abuse investigations by comparing Asian families (East and Southeast Asian) to non-Asian families involved with the Canadian child welfare system.

Through secondary data analyses of the Canadian Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect 2003 (CIS-2003), the authors found a higher proportion of substantiated maltreatment investigations with physical abuse as the primary form of maltreatment for Asian families (67%) compared to investigations involving non-Asian families (37%). Further analysis was conducted for investigations where physical abuse was identified as the primary form of maltreatment. There were no significant differences in rates of physical harm, but in a significantly lower proportion of investigations involving Asian families (8% vs. 21% for non-Asian families), worker noted signs of mental or emotional harm. In addition, investigations of Asian families were less likely to involve families who had a history of previous reports than those involving non-Asian families (17% vs. 47%). Although no significant differences were found regarding transfers to ongoing services, a higher proportion of cases involving Asian families led to foster placement. Logistic regression was used to predict placement in out-of-home care, controlling for all significant clinical factors for cases of substantiated physical abuse involving Asian families. Findings indicated that the most significant predictor of child welfare placement was ethnicity, with an 11.25 times greater likelihood of placement for substantiated physical abuse investigations involving Asian families compared to those involving non-Asian families. Other significant predictors of child welfare placement included rates of physical harm, use of spanking as a form of discipline, and previous reports to child welfare.