Thursday, January 15, 2009

Who is more likely to have abused/molested/exploited a child? His father or his mother?

Male versus Female: who is more likely to perpetrate child abuse

Since I'm not good at working out my own math in a situation like this, I turn to what others have done. I am able to follow this line of reasoning, and I do hope some of my readers will follow it as well.

(When doing the math, adjust the figures as your actual study shows them.)
Assume that at any given time, 90% of all children who are in the care of one caregiver are in the actual (not "constructive") physical care of a woman (parent, grandparent, teacher, babysitter, day care provider, nurse, etc.), and that 10% are in the care of a man. (This is a conservative estimate.)

Assume that when a couple together are caring for children (e.g. married parents, grandparents, or a parent and stepparent), if the man perpetrates abuse it's extremely unlikely that the woman also will not be charged with either accomplice physical abuse or failure to protect (neglect), so these statistics are a "wash" and we are not considering them. (In reality, it's next to never that men are charged for abuse perpetrated by a woman when there is a couple caring for a child, Rusty Yates case in point, but this anomaly favors men and artificially increases the relative portion of total abuse reported as being perpetrated by women, so we will err in that direction. We also are ignoring "gang" abuse and other kinds of individual incidents of reported abuse involving two or more non-coupled adults against children, which are, at any rate, relatively rare.)

Note that each counted incident of reported abuse is per occurrence per child, and not per perpetrator. (So that, e.g. one woman caring for 4 kids who didn't send them to school or didn't take them to the dentist when she should have in the opinion of some DCF worker is responsible for four reported counts of neglect-type abuse "perpetrated by a woman," whereas one man's rape of one child would be one count of abuse in the reported statistics.)

Assume that per caregiver, when they do care for children, women on average care for 2 children while men care for 1 child. (Women are much more likely than men are to care for groups of children rather than one child, and even when men do care for more than one child at a time, women are much more likely to care for large groups, both in a parental capacity in families in which there are more children as well as third party caregiving.)

Assume that for every 80 women who routinely directly care for children alone and spend significant time with them, there are 20 men who directly care for children alone and spend significant time with them. Thus, in the population of all persons who routinely care for children on their own, of every 100 persons, 80 are women and 20 are men, or put another way, there are 4 women caregivers for each 1 man caregiver. (Do not confuse this statistical base with the 90% children figure, above, which reflects individual women caring for more than one child at a time. If you are surprised at this 80-20 figure, and assumed it should be closer to 50-50, thinking of "parents," remember that children in the active care of a couple together are being statistically eliminated as a wash -- a simplification that in these calculations will err in favor of men -- and also don't forget the vast numbers of unwed and divorced mothers who care for children without male assistance, the stepmothers who care for children while fathers are away or at work, and the sex of third party caregivers.)

Assume (without regard to kind of abuse, and without correcting for qualitative differences by removing or differentiating add-on and minor neglect charges from affirmative acts of physical abuse), that counting reported incidents of abuse shows that 70% of all incidents of abuse were committed by women and 30% were committed by men. (This is grossly skewed to err in favor of men, see below.)

Set up a ratio to compare men- versus women-perpetrated abuse. Thus:
Based on the foregoing, women abusers occur at a comparative rate of 70/80 in the population where the numerator is percent of incidents of abuse, and the denominator is total woman population caring for children; and men abusers occur at a comparative rate of 30/20 in the population where the numerator is percent of incidents of abuse, and the denominator is total man population caring for children, or, in order to more easily compare this ratio with the woman abuser ratio, making the denominators equal, 120/80.

The total abuse would be 120 + 70, or 190. Therefore, in any given population of child caregivers, adjusted to reflect greater likelihood of women being the caregiver, men represent 120/190 of total incidents of abuse perpetrated and women represent 70/190 of that total. The comparative likelihood that a man is the abuser then is represented as .63, and that a woman is the abuser as .36.

In other words, using these conservative figures, and without yet correcting for the fact that for each woman caregiver there are more children and without recognizing different kinds of abuse, in the population of all caregivers, men are nearly twice as likely to abuse children as are women.

Now adjust for actual numbers of perpetrators.

The incidents of abuse in women's 70/80 above ratio actually represent only 35 individual women caregivers (because each woman is caring for an average 2 children.) The incidents of abuse in men's 30/20 ratio above represent 30 man caregivers (because, above, they have an average of 1 child to care for compared with 2 children cared for by a women.) Because we are looking to compare perpetrator information gleaned from statistics using incident reports for each child, a different statistical population base, we need to adjust for this.
Based on the foregoing, then, individual women perpetrators actually will be represented by a ratio of 35/80 and men perpetrators will occur with a comparable frequency of 30/20, or, adjusting the denominators so that we can better compare the ratios for women and men, we have a ratio of 120/80 for men compared with 35/80 for women. Individual men then represent 120/155 of total individual abusers, and women are 35/155 of total individual abusers.

Thus, the adjusted likelihood that a man is an abuser is .77, and that a woman is an abuser is .23. In other words, the "twice as likely" calculation was premature; individual men caregivers are 2.34 times more likely (or 3.34 times as likely) as a woman is to be an abuser.

Compare the above two calculations with the National Clearinghouse statistics that "[a]mong children in single-parent households, those living with only their fathers were approximately one and two-thirds times more likely to be physically abused than those living with only their mothers."

Now adjust again to take into account time and opportunity.

While we cannot say that if an abuser cares for a child for more time, it's more likely that abuse will be perpetrated by that abuser, it does seem reasonable to suppose that it has some effect. The assumed fact, above, is that any given time 90% of children who are in the care of one caregiver are in the care of a woman, or stated another way, women are performing 90% of child care once children in the care of couples are eliminated from consideration (the statistical wash.) If there is a direct correlation, and if men perpetrate 30% of child abuse, then men perpetrate abuse 30/10 of the time, and women perpetrate abuse 70/90. Adjusting the denominators, per time men are caring for children, we get a whopping 270/90 for men. That makes men 3.86 times as likely as women to perpetrate abuse given the same amount of time in caregiving. If we now correct this figure to adjust for actual numbers of individual caregivers this represents, remembering that there are, mathematically, 4 women caregivers (above) for every 1 man caregiver, we also properly should adjust the time/opportunity ratios to account for that.
So per individual, men abusers are represented by a risk ratio of 1080/90 compared with women who are 70/90.

So what we have calculated thus far is that, IF, according to incident reports, 70% of all child abuse is committed by women, then adjusting for the different statistical populations and applying our stated assumptions, men are 12 times as likely as women to perpetrate abuse against children, or put another way, they are 1100% more dangerous to children than are women.

However, this calculation still errs on the side of being too conservative. We haven't corrected for kind of abuse, or seriousness of outcomes.

In addition, the raw figures actually don't show that 70% of all incidents of child abuse are perpetrated by women -- even when including reported "abuse" such as accomplice abuse, failure to protect, and minor neglect such as leaving a child unattended where no harm has occurred. They don't show that.

The statistics you will see from, e.g. the National Clearinghouse on Child Abuse and Neglect show that child abuse perpetrated by women represents (depending on report) between 50-70% of total abuse, usually closer to 50%. And if we remove from those reports, those minor neglect charges without notable outcomes and charges such as "failure to protect" that women -- and notably battered women -- but very few men tend to be charged with, we probably come down to something closer to 50-50, if it is even that much, if indeed women are the perpetrators of even 50% of total numbers of real abuse and neglect. Which means that in reality, men are not "12 times as likely as women to perpetrate child abuse" but some multiplier significantly greater even than that. In other words:

Children are at astronomically greater risk of physical abuse in the care of a man than in the care of a woman.

Article taken from The Liz Library

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