The Changing Focus of Child Maltreatment Research and Practice Within Psychology

Authors

  • Mark Chaffin

    Corresponding author
    1. University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center
      *Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Mark Chaffin, OUHSC, P.O. Box 26901, Oklahoma City, OK 73190 [e-mail: Mark-chaffin@ouhsc.edu].
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*Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Mark Chaffin, OUHSC, P.O. Box 26901, Oklahoma City, OK 73190 [e-mail: Mark-chaffin@ouhsc.edu].

Abstract

Professions functionally define a field by the types of behaviors or circumstances to which they direct their attention and efforts. For psychology and mental health professionals concerned with child maltreatment, child sexual abuse has been the dominant interest over the past two decades and has been virtually synonymous with child maltreatment within psychology. This is discrepant from the broader scope of child maltreatment, as seen both in child welfare populations and in the general population. In child welfare, sexual abuse is an important but nonetheless relatively less frequent issue. Child neglect and physical abuse dominate child welfare caseloads, and historically always have. The disconnect between the interests of mental health professionals and child welfare appears to be waning, both in terms of dialogue within psychology and apportioning of research resources. This article examines what this emerging change may mean for practice and research in terms of the changing nature of populations involved, different types and locations of services, different roles and new multidisciplinary alliances.

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