Police organizational structure and child sexual abuse case attrition

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Purpose - This paper aims to explore the effects of formal police organizational structure on child sexual abuse case attrition. Design/methodology/approach - Data from two surveys were merged for this analysis: a 1988 survey of child abuse enforcement in US police departments, and the 1987 Law Enforcement Management and Administrative Statistics (LEMAS) database produced by the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Based on the structure-performance link that is rooted in structural contingency theory, this study examines the effects of both global and specific structural features on two case disposition ratios. Because structure is more easily malleable than other factors that may affect performance, such as environment and context, it is important to know whether certain structural arrangements produce more desirable outcomes than others. Findings - The results indicate that the global structural variables included in this analysis play a small role in child sexual abuse case attrition. None of the variables included in the model influence the rate at which cases are designated as "founded". The size and height of police agencies and the rate at which they designate cases as founded both influence their arrest rates for child sexual abuse cases. Research limitations/implications - The small sample size made it difficult to estimate the models. Future research should test the findings reported here using larger samples. Originality/value - To the author's knowledge this is the first study to compare the effects of global and specific structures on police outputs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)157-179
Number of pages23
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 6 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Child welfare
  • Organizational structures
  • Police
  • United States of America

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Law
  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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