Social outrage and organizational behavior: A national study of child protective service decisions

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2 Scopus citations


In this paper, we extend to CPS, a risk model commonly employed in the fields of environmental science, food safety and chemical engineering, where risk is conceptualized as a function of both technical hazard and social outrage. Much as Jagannathan and Camasso (2011, 2013) did, we argue that child fatalities resulting from maltreatment and the social outrage they often engender serve to influence CPS operations by altering CPS worker and child welfare organizational decision rules. In our empirical analyses, we test for an independent effect of social outrage (captured by child fatalities) on worker decisions while controlling for hazard and other relevant determinants. We also test whether this relationship is mediated by child welfare reform measures undertaken via judicial interventions or class action litigation. Using data from NCANDS (n = 1122 state-year observations over a 22 year time period across all 50 states and District of Columbia) and panel regression methods we show that social outrage caused by child fatalities significantly and directly influence child welfare worker decisions to: accept a referral of alleged maltreatment for investigation, substantiate reports of maltreatment, and place children out-of-home.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)153-163
Number of pages11
JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
StatePublished - Jun 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


  • Child maltreatment
  • Child welfare reform
  • Social outrage

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