Risk Factors for Child Abuse and Neglect

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Research has revealed many risk factors or attributes associated with child maltreatment. These risk factors may potentially contribute to child abuse and neglect.

Parent or Caregiver Risk Factors:

  1. Individual Characteristics: An individual’s risk factors may include mental health issues, adverse response to stress, and trauma history.
  2. Substance Abuse: Studies have shown that between one and two-thirds of child maltreatment cases involve substance use to some degree.
  3. Teen Parents: Studies of physical abuse, in particular, tell us that higher rates of child abuse occur when parents are in their teenage years.
  4. Additional factors contributing to the risk factors listed above include lower socioeconomic status, lack of social support, and high-stress levels.

Child Risk Factors:

  1. The child’s age, health—physical, mental, and emotional—and social development may increase susceptibility to abuse and neglect. Given their size, early development status, and need for constant care, infants and young children are more vulnerable to certain types of maltreatment, including abusive head trauma and physical or medical neglect.

Parenting Methods and Household Risk Factors:

  1. The attitudes of the parents, family structure, and approach to raising the child(ren) are all potential risks for abuse and neglect.
  2. Domestic violence is a frequent contributor to child maltreatment. In 30% to 60% of families where spousal abuse in involved, mistreatment of the child also occurs.

Community and Environmental Risk Factors:

  1. The child’s neighborhood conditions, such as low socioeconomic status, presence of violence in his/her vicinity, and social attitudes, can place the child at greater risk for maltreatment.
  2. Poverty can add to the probability of abuse and neglect. If this condition is added to other risk factors, including depression, substance abuse, and social isolation, the chances of maltreatment increase.

Other factors occurring simultaneously—parent and child characteristics, family situations, community violence and conditions—increase the risk as well.

Child abuse isn’t limited to one race/ethnic group, gender or age group, or social or economic status. Additional risk factors include a history of abuse or neglect as a child, physical or mental illness, family crisis or stress, unemployment, family isolation, and inadequate parenting skills.

An abused child may exhibit signs of guilt, shame or confusion. If the abuse involves a parent, relative, or family friend, it is likely he/she will be afraid to tell anyone about the maltreatment and develop a noticeable fear or discomfort when around parents, adult caregivers or family friends. It is vital to be on the alert for such red flags.

How can we mitigate these risks?

Protective factors are conditions or attributes of individuals, families, communities, or the larger society that mitigate risk and promote healthy development and well-being.” – Child Welfare.gov.

CASA Child Advocates of Montgomery County is dedicated to protecting the best interests of every abused or neglected child and ultimately break the cycle of child abuse, one child at a time. Someday, child abuse and neglect will hopefully be eliminated completely. Until that time, CASA needs volunteers to make a difference in the lives of children who have suffered from abuse and/or neglect.

If you suspect a child is the victim of abuse or neglect, call the Texas Abuse Hotline toll-free 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, nationwide: 1-800-252-5400. Or report through the Texas Department of Family and Protective Service’s secure website and get a response within 24 hours: https://www.txabusehotline.org/Login/Default.aspx. (Please note, Texas DFPS cannot accept email reports of suspected abuse or neglect.)

If the child is in immediate danger, do not hesitate. Call 911.

The earlier assistance is provided, the better the outcome for the child.

CASA is dedicated to protecting the best interests of every abused or neglected child and ultimately break the cycle of child abuse, one child at a time. We need caring volunteers to assist with the numerous cases of child abuse and neglect.

Join Us at Our Next Conversations for CASA to Learn More