The Nature of Domestic and Family Violence Reported to Child Protection Prenatally

Jenna Meiksans, Stewart McDougall, Fiona Arney, Rosemaria Flaherty, Alwin Chong, Fiona Ward, Cathy Taylor - Children and Youth Services Review


Up to 70% of prenatal child protection reports include notifier concerns about current or previous domestic and family violence within families, far more than identified using only fixed-field administrative data. The nature of this violence remains unknown. A qualitative case file review was carried out to examine the nature of violence recorded in the narratives of 91 prenatal child protection reports from a single Australian jurisdiction in 2014. Similar codes were categorised to identify the main ways in which violence was recorded within the reports. Five themes emerged: the nature of the violence; violence in the context of relationships; violence resulting in police and court intervention; co-occurring experiences of violence within families; and incidents or patterns of violence that lacked detailed description. Violence experienced within families was severe, including allegations of attempted murder, and pervasive, occurring in multiple ways within families and across the population. Findings suggest violence prevention and service responses are a key pillar of any approach to the early intervention and prevention of child abuse and neglect, and that improved understandings of the emergence and patterns of violence experienced are critical in developing targeted interventions.