Pre-existing adversity, level of child protection involvement, and school attendance predict educational outcomes in a longitudinal study

M.J. Maclean, Catherine Taylor, Melissa O'Donnell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)
420 Downloads (Pure)


© 2015 Elsevier Ltd. Maltreatment largely occurs in a multiple-risk context. The few large studies adjusting for confounding factors have raised doubts about whether low educational achievement results from maltreatment or co-occurring risk factors. This study examined prevalence, risk and protective factors for low educational achievement among children involved with the child protection system compared to other children. We conducted a population-based record-linkage study of children born in Western Australia who sat national Year 3 reading achievement tests between 2008 and 2010 (N= 46,838). The longitudinal study linked data from the Western Australian Department of Education, Department of Child Protection and Family Support, Department of Health, and the Disability Services Commission. Children with histories of child protection involvement (unsubstantiated maltreatment reports, substantiations or out-of-home care placement) were at three-fold increased risk of low reading scores. Adjusting for socio-demographic adversity partially attenuated the increased risk, however risk remained elevated overall and for substantiated (OR = 1.68) and unsubstantiated maltreatment (OR = 1.55). Risk of low reading scores in the out-of-home care group was fully attenuated after adjusting for socio-demographic adversity (OR = 1.16). Attendance was significantly higher in the out-of-home care group and served a protective role. Neglect, sexual abuse, and physical abuse were associated with low reading scores. Pre-existing adversity was also significantly associated with achievement. Results support policies and practices to engage children and families in regular school attendance, and highlight a need for further strategies to prevent maltreatment and disadvantage from restricting children's opportunities for success.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)120-131
Number of pages12
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
Early online date25 Nov 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2016


Dive into the research topics of 'Pre-existing adversity, level of child protection involvement, and school attendance predict educational outcomes in a longitudinal study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this