Gender differences in abused children with and without disabilities

Dick Sobsey*, Wade Randall, Rauno K. Parrila

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

117 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: Two questions were posed: (1) What are the proportions of boys and girls in various categories of substantiated child abuse? (2) Do the gender proportions differ for children with and without disabilities? Method: Data collected by previous researchers from a demographically representative sample of U.S. child abuse reporting districts was analyzed. This included 1,249 case files involving 1,834 children. The number of girls and boys who did and did not have disabilities was identified for three age categories and for several categories of abuse. Chi-square analyses were used to determine whether there was a relationship between disability and gender for the various age and abuse categories. Results: More boys were physically abused and neglected, but more girls were sexually abused. Boys with disabilities, however, were over-represented in all categories of abuse. Moreover, gender proportions among abused children with disabilities differed significantly from those found among other abused children. Although slightly more than half of abused children without disabilities were girls, 65% of abused children with disabilities were boys. Conclusions: Boys represented a significantly larger proportion of physically abused, sexually abused, and neglected children with disabilities than would be expected from their respective proportion of abused and neglected children without disabilities. Several possible explanations for the observed gender and disability status interaction are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)707-720
Number of pages14
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 1997
Externally publishedYes


  • adolescents
  • child abuse
  • children
  • handicapped
  • human sex differences


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