Balancing Rights and Responsibilities

Legal Perspectives on Child Maltreatment
  • Sharon G. Portwood
  • N. Dickon Reppucci
  • Margaret S. Mitchell
Part of the Issues in Clinical Child Psychology book series (ICCP)


The topic of child abuse and neglect has reached such a prominent place in the American consciousness that few are unaware of the potential dangers that children face at the hands of adults, including teachers, child care personnel, strangers, community leaders, and, all too often, members of a child’s own family. Indeed, one need only tune in to network television on any night to encounter at least one more story involving the victimization of a child. Although the laws of all 50 states now provide for both criminal and civil prosecution of child abuse and neglect (Bulkley, Feller, Stern, & Roe, 1996), there remains a great deal of misunderstanding and often a lack of knowledge regarding legal responses to cases in which a child is alleged to have been abused or neglected. Cases such as the infamous 1984 McMartin Preschool trial, which extended over five years and resulted in the defendants’ acquittal on all charges, render suspect the degree to which not only the general public, but also those professionals regularly involved in the resolution of these cases (particularly mental health professionals) understand the relevant legal context. The purpose of this chapter is not only to illuminate those rules and guidelines that dictate the parameters of legal responses to allegations of child maltreatment, but also to provide insight into many of the controversies that arise when a case of maltreatment is submitted to legal authorities.


Sexual Abuse Child Abuse Child Sexual Abuse Sexual Abuse Case Child Witness 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sharon G. Portwood
    • 1
  • N. Dickon Reppucci
    • 2
  • Margaret S. Mitchell
    • 3
  1. 1.University of Missouri-Kansas CityKansas CityUSA
  2. 2.University of VirginiaCharlottesvilleUSA
  3. 3.College of CharlestonCharlestonUSA

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