exploitation, which is a real shortcoming of that study. Another shortcoming was the very strict definition in terms of physical abuse and neglect. They used scales that had been used in the national family violence surveys to describe physical abuse, which may have been too limiting.

The Conflict Tactics Scale was also used on a national sample of Canadian elders (Podnieks, 1992). In that sample, Podnieks added financial exploitation and found several different results: 5 percent of the sample was financially abused, which was the largest category, followed by physical abuse and neglect. Podnieks concluded that 4 percent of the population had been abused, neglected, or financially exploited.

Researchers in the United Kingdom wanted to do a similar study but they couldn’t get it through their human subjects review panel, so they added a few questions from the Boston study to another annual survey in the United Kingdom (Ogg and Bennett, 1992). They concluded that overall, 5 percent of the elders 65 and over had been abused or neglected or exploited (about 2 percent had been physically abused).

The next study was done in a small town in Finland (Kivela et al., 1992). It was a geriatric mental health study by geriatricians in a health center. They used a completely different methodology, with the subjects saying whether they were abused or neglected. They defined abuse simply as the infliction of unnecessary pain or injury. The researchers asked the subjects if they knew anybody who had been abused, if they had ever been abused, and then asked the same questions about the issues of exploitation, sexual abuse, and neglect. They found that 5.7 percent of that representative sample had been abused.

The latest study was reported in 1998 in Amsterdam (Comijs et al., 1998). The researchers added some questions about elder abuse and neglect from the Boston study to a health study being done in a representative sample of persons 69 and older. They came out with 5.6 percent prevalence.

An incidence study funded by the Administration for Children and Families and the Administration on Aging (National Center on Elder Abuse, 1998) attempted to answer some of these questions. Its methodology was questioned, but it was based on the iceberg theory and the assumption that what is reported to adult protective services is only part of what exists in the community.

Because of the shortage of time, I won’t go into it in too great detail. The study showed that there were 70,942 new cases in 1996. But when these cases are added to the cases that came in from the sentinels (people, working in hospitals, senior centers, police departments, and banks), the total amounted to over 379,000 cases. Although the methodology has been questioned, there is much to examine in this study.

One criticism of the methodology stems from the fact that many older,



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement