Objectives: We examined the concordance between measures of self-reported maltreatment and court records of abuse or neglect in a sample of detained youths.
Methods: Data were collected by the Northwestern Juvenile Project and include interviews from 1829 youths aged 10–18 years. Participants were newly detained youths in the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center in Illinois between 1995 and 1998. Self-reported cases of child maltreatment were compared with court records of abuse or neglect in the Cook County judicial system.
Results: We found that among detained youths, 16.6% of those who reported any maltreatment, 22.2% of those who reported the highest level of maltreatment, and 25.1% of those who reported that they required medical treatment as a result of maltreatment had a court record of abuse or neglect. Among those with any self-reported maltreatment, girls (vs boys) and African Americans (vs Whites) were more likely to have a court record (adjusted odds ratio [AOR]=2.18; 95% confidence interval [CI]=1.53, 3.09; and AOR=2.12; 95% CI=1.23, 3.63, respectively).
Conclusions: Official records seriously underestimate the prevalence of maltreatment, which indicates that multiple data sources are needed to document the true prevalence of maltreatment.