Objective: The public view of the severity of social problems and their perceptions of how effectively they are being addressed have a major impact on public policies and resource allocation. The present study focuses on public attitudes toward child maltreatment. It examines perceptions of child maltreatment as a social problem, and attitudes toward prevention and treatment strategies in cases of child abuse and neglect. Methods: A survey was conducted among a representative sample of 812 Israeli adults: 688 Jews, and 124 Arabs. Fifty additional Ultra-Orthodox Jews were added for comparisons among Jewish participants. Results: The participants tend to view violence and alcohol consumption among youth as a more serious problem than parental maltreatment of children. Low-income participants tend to view child maltreatment as a more serious problem than did high-income participants. Jewish participants (except for ultra-Orthodox Jews) view child maltreatment as a significantly more serious problem than did Arabs and Ultra-Orthodox Jews. Most of the participants believe that parents who maltreat their children should be punished, but they should be taught how to refrain from maltreatment, and learn to change their behavior. Many participants believe that the courts do not sufficiently punish parents who maltreat their children. In their assessments of the quality of professional work, the highest evaluations are given to services provided by physicians and social workers, whereas the lowest evaluations are given to judges and police. Most of the participants (70%) believed that social workers play an important role in protecting children. Conclusions: The survey findings have implications for enhancing public awareness of child maltreatment as well for policy making in the area of child abuse and neglect. The differences in the perceptions of participants based on their religious, cultural and economic background toward child maltreatment should be further studied and addressed in policy and interventions in this area.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The authors wish to acknowledge the generous funding provided by the Haruv Institute and the professional support of the B.I. Cohen Institute for Public Opinion Research in Tel Aviv.
- Child abuse and neglect
- Parents' education
- Public attitudes