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Influences on the perception of elder financial abuse among older adults in Southern California

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 May 2015

Bob G. Knight*
USC Davis School of Gerontology, 3715 McClintock Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90089-0191, USA
Seungyoun Kim
USC Davis School of Gerontology, 3715 McClintock Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90089-0191, USA
Sarah Rastegar
USC Davis School of Gerontology, 3715 McClintock Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90089-0191, USA
Scott Jones
Superior Court of California, County of Ventura (retired), Camarillo, CA, USA
Victoria Jump
Ventura County (CA) Area Agency on Aging, 646 County Square Drive, Ventura, CA 93003, USA
Serena Wong
Department of Psychology, Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, OH 43402, USA
Correspondence should be addressed to: Bob G. Knight, PhD, USC Davis School of Gerontology, 3715 McClintock Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90089-0191, USA. Phone: 213-740-1373. Email:



Under-reporting of elder financial abuse is partly due to failure of those around the victim to perceive the financial mistreatment as abuse. This study explored the effect of victim and perceiver factors on perception of elder financial abuse in the context of Routine Activity Theory (RAT).


488 older adults in Ventura County (CA) were surveyed about financial abuse using vignette method. In the study's Vignette 1, the amount of money taken, the type of frailty, and the relationship of perpetrator and victim were manipulated. In Vignette 2, the victim's age and relationship of perpetrator and victim were manipulated. Respondents’ demographics (age, gender, education, and ethnicity) were collected.


Logistic regression analyses revealed that children of the victim were least likely to be seen as committing abuse in both vignettes. In Vignette 1, there was an interaction of gender of respondent and the amount of money taken. In Vignette 2, non-Whites were less likely to perceive the signing over of the house as financial abuse. Respondents endorsed the concept of a special court with expertize in elder abuse as a way to increase the likelihood that they would report.


Even though most financial abuse is perpetrated by family members, older adults are less likely to perceive a financial situation as abuse when it involves a child of the victim, thus making reporting and prevention less likely. The support for a specialty Elder Abuse Court (EAC) suggests that some reluctance to report is based on misgivings about punishing the perpetrator.

Research Article
Copyright © International Psychogeriatric Association 2015 

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