Insight into the effects of methodological characteristics on reported child maltreatment prevalence rates can facilitate the interpretation of results of previous studies and improve the design of future prevalence studies. We reviewed findings from four previous meta‐analyses (Stoltenborgh et al., , , , ) on methodological moderators in self‐report prevalence studies on child sexual (k = 323, N = 410,951), physical (k = 157, N = 250,167) and emotional abuse (k = 42, N = 76,586), and physical (k = 13, N = 59 406) and emotional neglect (k = 16, N = 59 655). We provide an overview of the moderating effects of participant characteristics (e.g. age), the sampling method and measurement characteristics (e.g. validation). No characteristic was without influence, but specific characteristics were significant moderators for certain types of abuse and not for others. This implies that the wide range of lifetime prevalence rates reported in the literature can partly be explained by methodological differences. Our best‐evidence synthesis (sexual abuse: k = 4, N = 52 749; physical abuse: k = 2, N = 40 341; emotional abuse: k = 6, N = 4029; emotional neglect: k = 3, N = 3226) suggests that depending on the methodological characteristic under consideration a certain prevalence rate can be an over‐ or underestimation of the actual prevalence. Taking methodological characteristics' influence into consideration and choosing a sound methodology can help to get as close as possible to the actual child maltreatment prevalence. Copyright © 2016 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
‘We reviewed findings from four previous meta‐analyses on methodological moderators in self‐report prevalence studies on child sexual, physical and emotional abuse, and physical and emotional neglect’
Key Practitioner Messages
The methodological quality of studies affects the reported lifetime prevalence rates of child maltreatment, but the direction of this effect depends on the indicator of methodological quality.
A higher response rate is related to a higher reported lifetime prevalence of child maltreatment for all maltreatment types except physical abuse.
A sound study design and methodology can help researchers to get as close as possible to the actual lifetime prevalence of child maltreatment.