Jill Korbin Speaks at Washington University 
Earlier this month, CVIP hosted Jill Korbin, Ph.D., the Lucy Adams Leffingwell 

Professor of Anthropology, Associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Director of the Schubert Center for Child Studies, and Director of the Child Studies Program at Case Western Reserve University. During her visit, Dr. Korbin met with faculty, researchers, and students to share her work on child maltreatment.

Dr. Korbin earned her doctorate in Anthropology at the University of California, Los Angeles in 1978 before completing an NIMH postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles. She joined the Case Western faculty in 1981 as an Assistant Professor of Anthropology and has since published extensively on neighborhoods, poverty, and child maltreatment. In addition to her position in the Department of Anthropology, Dr. Korbin also holds a secondary appointment in the Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences at Case Western.

In Brown Lounge on October 9, Dr. Korbin discussed her new project, “Neighborhood Ecologies and Child Well-being: A Mixed Methods Study,” which will re-test the findings of a study conducted nearly twenty years ago. The current study, funded by NICHD, samples households across neighborhoods in Cleveland to assess variability in child maltreatment incidence and reporting practices.

According to Dr. Korbin, consensus about the causes of child maltreatment has evolved from parent and child characteristics to a more ecologically-based approach. While there has been a slight resurgence of interest on the contextual factors involved in child maltreatment, however, research remains largely focused on individual-level factors.

Her prior work has identified three major pathways by which neighborhood influences child maltreatment. First, the conditions of neighborhood-level disadvantage create parental stress that promotes maltreatment. Second, disparities in reporting practices influence community practices and norms surround maltreatment, particularly between mandated versus layperson reporters. Finally, personal choice, structural patterns, and residential segregation influence how neighborhoods form, as well as levels of cohesiveness and collective efficacy. 

The conceptual model that emerged from the initial study posits that neighborhood structural factors such as poverty, residential instability, and childcare burden affect key processes involving social organization and collective efficacy. These processes in turn influence levels of social support and caretaking behaviors, when may lead to child maltreatment. 

“Neighborhood Ecologies and Child Well-being” aims to increase understanding about the influence of changing neighborhood conditions, social services, and reporting practices on child maltreatment rates in Cleveland.  A mixed methods approach combines administrative data, interviews, and focus groups to capture the range of neighborhood factors influencing families.

Overall, Dr. Korbin hopes to expand our understanding of the complex ecologies that contribute to child maltreatment, why variability exists across neighborhoods, and how policy and practice can be adapted to improve neighborhood conditions for all families.