Major Department



College of Liberal Arts & Sciences


BS (Bachelor of Science)

Session and Year of Graduation

Spring 2017

Honors Major Advisor

Margaret Beck

Thesis Mentor

Erica Prussing


Policies reflect the values of the society that creates them, but can also change the way a society perceives and approaches certain issues. Considered a taboo in the past the U.S. has adopted extensive child maltreatment policy that varies in every state. Child neglect and poverty are known to hold a significant relationship, with the potential to decrease both through structural interventions. Despite this, neglect and poverty remain taboo topics in Iowan society. This is reflected the public policy of the state and in the policy adopted by the independent organization Prevent Child Abuse Iowa (PCAIowa). Literature on the anthropology of policy and the perceptions of poverty and neglect along with a linguistic analysis were used to analyze the child maltreatment policies of the federal government, state of Iowa, and PCAIowa. Further, child maltreatment data collected by the federal government and the Iowa Department of Human Services were utilized. Iowa state child maltreatment policy deviates significantly from the federal standard, ultimately replacing the category of neglect with “denial of critical care.” The “denial of critical care” policy excludes poverty from its definition. PCAIowa’s policy includes neglect, yet doesn’t address poverty or the relationship between the two. Iowa’s “denial of critical care” policy uses ambiguous language that prevents the policy from being standardized across the state. Removing poverty for the definition of “denial of critical care” adheres to a societal taboo of this topic and allows for a perception of poverty that blames individuals to persist. By the elimination of poverty this policy fails to address the relationship between poverty and child neglect. Although the Adverse Childhood Events study has been successful in highlighting the effect of child abuse, neglect, and household dysfunction has on individuals, ambiguous language leads to an unproductive discussion of these topics. Further, inconsistencies between Iowa and PCAIowa policy prompts a loss of vital information from being presented to the public, and instead provides unnecessary information out of context. Child maltreatment policy in Iowa is ineffective in the way it addresses neglect and poverty as the result of a societal taboo in discussing these topics. Anthropologists have the potential to advocate to change the way child neglect and poverty are presented in policy in order to begin to address these topics more productively.


Anthropology, Public Policy, Child Maltreatment, Neglect, Poverty

Total Pages

32 pages


Copyright © 2017 Rylee Kerper