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Dataset Details

Fourth National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect (NIS–4)

Dataset Number: 147


Andrea J. Sedlak, Jane Mettenburg, John Brown, Monica Basena, Kristin Madden


In collaboration with the Children's Bureau, the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation in the Administration for Children and Families conducted the Fourth National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect (NIS-4). The National Incidence Studies have been conducted approximately once each decade, beginning in 1974, in response to requirements of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act. Although the Children's Bureau collects annual state-level administrative data on official reports of child maltreatment, the NIS studies are designed to estimate more broadly the incidence of child maltreatment in the United States by including both cases that are investigated by the authorities as well as those that are not. A unique contribution of the NIS has been the use of a common definitional framework for classifying children according to types of maltreatment as well as the severity of maltreatment. Key demographic characteristics of maltreated children and their families are also collected, which enables us to provide information about which children are most at risk. Data collection for the NIS-4 took place in 2005 and 2006. The study was conducted through a contract to Westat.

The principal objectives of the NIS-4 were to provide updated estimates of the incidence of child abuse and neglect in the United States and measure changes in incidence from the earlier studies. The NIS follows a nationally representative sample design, so the estimates reflect the numbers of abused and neglected children in the United States who receive CPS investigation or come to the attention of community professionals. The fact that there have been three previous NIS cycles using comparable methods and definitions means that one can compare NIS-4 estimates with those from the earlier studies in order to identify changes over time in the incidence and distribution of abused and neglected children. Data from the three prior NIS cycles are available from NDACAN as Datasets 52, 51, and 70.

To learn more about the NIS-4 study, please visit the Child Welfare Information Gateway's NIS webpage where you can download study related documentation.

NDACAN's dedicated NIS-4 User Support page contains a video and several documents to assist researchers with these data.

Bibliographic Citation

Sedlak, A. (2012). Fourth National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect (NIS–4) [Dataset]. National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect.

Data Documentation

Publications from this Dataset