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County-level socioeconomic and crime risk factors for substantiated child abuse and neglect.

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Rates of substantiated child abuse and neglect vary significantly across counties. Despite strong cross-sectional support for links between social-contextual characteristics and abuse and neglect, few longitudinal studies have tested relations between these risk factors and substantiated rates of abuse/neglect. The goal of this study was to identify county-level socioeconomic and crime factors associated with substantiated abuse/neglect rates over 13 years (2004-2016). Annual county-level data for Tennessee, obtained from the KIDS COUNT Data Center, included rates of substantiated child abuse and neglect, children's race and ethnicity, births to unmarried women, teen birth rate, children in families receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, and children in families receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. Annual county-level crime report data, obtained from the Tennessee Incident Based Reporting System, included sexual offenses, non-sexual assaults, stalking incidents, thefts, property damage, and drug-related offenses. Bayesian spatio-temporal models indicated that substantiated child abuse and neglect rates were independently and positively associated with teen birth rates, percentages of births to unmarried mothers, drug-related offenses, and percentages of children receiving SNAP benefits. In contrast, substantiated child abuse and neglect rates were negatively associated with percentages of African-American youth. The findings highlighted distinct demographic, socioeconomic, and crime factors associated with substantiated child abuse and neglect rates and have the potential to enhance identification of high-risk counties that could benefit from targeted abuse and neglect prevention efforts.

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