BACKGROUND: The aims of this study are to describe the methodological challenges in recruiting a follow-up sample of children referred to an interdisciplinary hospital child protection team (CPT) and to compare participating versus non-participating groups on several demographic variables and maltreatment characteristics.
METHODS: Of the 319 in- and outpatients referred to the CPT at University Children's Hospital Zurich from 2005-2006 a sample of 180 children was drawn to contact for a follow-up. The children and their parents were asked to participate in a face-to-face interview at the hospital; in 42 cases the children and parents consented to do so. Alternatively, the parents could take part in a telephone interview (n = 39). Non-participation resulted because no contact or adequate communication in German, French, or English could be established (n = 49) or because the parents or children refused to participate (n = 50).
RESULTS: Participants and non-participants did not differ significantly in mean child age at follow-up, gender, family status, place of residence, certainty and type of maltreatment, and type of perpetrator. However, the child's nationality had a significant impact: Percentages of foreign nationals were higher in the fully participating group (45%; n = 19) and the non-contactable group (53%; n = 26) and significantly lower in the refusal (26%; n = 10) and the telephone interview group (18%; n = 9). Although a high percentage of families had moved in the few years since the CPT intervention (32%; n = 57), the percentage of moves was not significantly higher in non-participants compared to participants.
CONCLUSIONS: Further research is needed to support these results in different national backgrounds and to test for biases in variables not included - especially socioeconomic status. This includes gathering more detailed information on non-participants, while respecting ethical boundaries. Overall, the fact that only child's nationality was unevenly distributed between participants and non-participants is encouraging.