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Allegations of maltreatment and delinquency: Does risk of juvenile arrest vary substantiation status?

By Yu-Ling Chiu, Joseph P. Ryan and Denise C. Herz


There exists a healthy debate about the process and value of substantiation in child welfare. Much of this debate focuses on understanding whether substantiated and unsubstantiated allegations of maltreatment share equal risk of recurrence. In the current study we seek to advance this debate by extending the analyses to focus specifically on the risk of juvenile delinquency. We also seek to determine whether the relationship between substantiation and delinquency varies by race and gender. Our sample includes 38,223 youth between 5 and 16 years of age from Los Angeles County. We use propensity score matching to create relatively equivalent groups and use Cox Regression to model the risk of juvenile arrest. The results indicate that the relative risk ratio of arrest is 2.2 times greater for youth associated with a substantiated report of maltreatment as compared with similar youth associated with an unsubstantiated report of maltreatment. Older youth, and African American youth are also at an increased risk of juvenile arrest. These findings indicate that the process of substantiation is not without merit - as investigators and supervisors are clearly able to distinguish cases based on individual risks and strengths.Substantiation Child maltreatment Gender Ethnicity Placement instability Juvenile delinquency

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