Thereare established domains of child maltreatment commonly accepted in the literature and in the policies of State agencies. Four types--neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse, and emotional maltreatment--are considered the core focus of CPS. States varied, however, in terms of additional conditions or behaviors that they considered and addressed in policy.For example, 8 States included educational neglect, 25 States specifically mentioned abandonment, and 27 States specifically mentioned medical neglect. Some States included exposure to substance abuse in the household as a type of neglect, while other States focused on harm to the child as a result of drug misuse.
This review did not examine the evolution of policy in the States and so could not determine if there was a trend toward identifying additional forms of maltreatment. However, an increase in the types of conditions considered to be maltreatment may result in higher rates of victimization of children. If determination of victimization is linked to service provision, this could be helpful to families. If such determinations do not result in services, then the investigation by CPS on a wide range of conditions might be questioned.
As society changes, the types of child maltreatment to be addressed by public agencies may need to be revisited. This review of policy indicated that maltreatment definitions ranged from conditions that resulted in harm to conditions that put a child at risk of harm. Harm was a broad concept not restricted to physical harm. Maltreatment was also defined in terms of conditions considered not to be conducive to the well-being or healthy development of a child. The considerable range of specificity and types of maltreatment among State policies indicated a need for greater debate as to what society considers child maltreatment.