What is it about?

The COVID-19 pandemic produced unprecedented challenges and raised serious concerns about child safety and wellbeing. Policies implemented to stop the spread of the virus resulted in families spending more time together in potentially crowded homes, while parents and children navigated increased stress and remote work and school. At the same time, these policies limited children’s’ interactions with teachers, coaches, and other adults who are among the most common reporters of abuse and neglect towards children. Collaborating with local clinics and social services, we examined how child abuse and neglect changed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Results showed that reports of suspected child abuse and neglect drastically dropped during the first year of COVID-19 pandemic (28-29%), likely due to the stay-at-home orders impeding the ability to identify children experiencing abuse. At the same time, results suggest that harm to children was likely increasing.

Featured Image

Why is it important?

This paradox—the decrease in identification of child abuse and neglect, and increase in harm to children—have significant implications for the both the short- and long-term future of child welfare. As schools and businesses reopen, there may be an exponential increase in the number of children and families that need services as children are identified at increasing rates. Medical, legal and social service systems that support these families therefore need to prepare for a potential short-term surge in cases. In the long-term, innovative identification, evaluation, and service delivery systems are needed, as the current systems faltered during the pandemic.


We hope that by helping people better understand the impact of societal events and policies on children and families, a greater focus will be placed on creating programs that improve our ability to support families and intervene before harm occurs. New telehealth advancements and training programs for children are two examples of exciting innovations to this end.

Stacy Metcalf
University of California Irvine

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Identification and incidence of child maltreatment during the COVID-19 pandemic., Psychology Public Policy and Law, March 2022, American Psychological Association (APA),
DOI: 10.1037/law0000352.
You can read the full text:



The following have contributed to this page