• Journal Article

Caregiver instability and early life changes among infants reported to the child welfare system

Citation

Casanueva, C., Dozier, M., Tueller, S., Dolan, M., Smith, K., Webb, M. B., ... Harden, B. J. (2014). Caregiver instability and early life changes among infants reported to the child welfare system. Child Abuse & Neglect, 38(3), 498-509. DOI: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2013.07.016

Abstract

This study describes the extent of caregiver instability (defined as a new placement for 1 week or longer in a different household and/or with a new caregiver) in a nationally representative sample of infants, followed for 5-7 years. Data were drawn from the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being (NSCAW), a longitudinal study of 5,501 children investigated for child maltreatment. The analysis sample was restricted to 1,196 infants. Overall, 85.6% of children who were infants at the time of the index maltreatment experienced at least one caregiver instability event during their first 2 years of life. Caregiver instability was associated with the child having a chronic health condition and the caregiver being older than 40 years of age at baseline. The levels of instability reported in this study from infancy to school entry are extremely high. Children with more risk factors were significantly more likely to experience caregiver instability than children with fewer risk factors. The repeated loss of a young child's primary caregiver or unavailable, neglectful care can be experienced as traumatic. Some evidence-based programs that are designed to work with young maltreated children can make a substantial positive difference in the lives of vulnerable infants