Media portrayal of a hidden problem: An analysis of Hong Kong newspaper coverage of child maltreatment in 2016

Grace W.K. Ho, Athena C.Y. Chan

Research output: Journal article publicationJournal articleAcademic researchpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


The news media plays a vital role in providing child protection information and resources, shaping the public's understanding and perceptions of child maltreatment, and exposing system failures and setting policy agendas. To date, little is known about how child maltreatment is portrayed in the media in societies where these issues remain largely hidden and under-recognized. The purpose of the present study was to systematically examine newspaper coverage on child abuse and neglect in Hong Kong in order to assess how child maltreatment is currently presented and framed within public discourse. A total of 579 newspaper reports relevant to child maltreatment from four local newspapers in 2016 were reviewed. Similar to prior findings, cases involving sexual abuse received disproportionately more attention compared with other maltreatment types. The vast majority of news reports focused on specific cases or events, and seldom discussed child maltreatment as a broader social issue. Differences in reporting style and media framing were also compared by newspaper credibility, and for free versus paid newspapers. As a mass communication tool, more guidelines are needed to formulate public messages about child maltreatment that can improve individual, community, and structural capacities to prevent, identify, and respond to children who are victimized by abuse and neglect. This is especially important in jurisdictions where no mandatory reporting framework exists to help identify vulnerable children, and where the majority of child maltreatment is brought to the attention of authorities by families and those living within the child's community.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)62-73
Number of pages12
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2018


  • Child abuse and neglect
  • Child maltreatment
  • Mass media
  • Newspaper
  • Print media

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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