Defining child abuse: Exploring variations in ratings of discipline severity among child welfare practitioners

  • Stephen D. Whitney
  • Emiko A. Tajima
  • Todd I. Herrenkohl
  • Bu Huang


This study investigated child welfare practitioners’ ratings of the severity of parental discipline practices. Ratings varied by the type of act, age of the child, and by chronicity. Exploratory investigation into changes across time found that current practitioners (N = 27) rated several practices (e.g. spanking and shaking) as more severe than did professionals (N = 24) sampled in 1977. Results underscore the complexity of defining child maltreatment and offer implications for practitioners, applied researchers, and child welfare policy makers.


Child abuse Severity ratings Discipline practices Definition 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephen D. Whitney
    • 1
  • Emiko A. Tajima
    • 1
    • 2
  • Todd I. Herrenkohl
    • 1
  • Bu Huang
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Social WorkUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  2. 2.School of Social WorkUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA

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