800 Eastowne Dr., Ste. 105,
Chapel Hill, NC 27514
Common Risk Factors for Child Abuse and Neglect

Decades of research inform us that child maltreatment typically occurs in the context of a relationship between a child and an adult, usually a caregiver. Maltreatment is more likely to occur if the child and the caregiver exhibit certain risk conditions. For example; if the child and caregiver are in a family and/or a community that are experiencing difficult life circumstances, and if there are insufficient protective factors to mediate the risk factors present in their lives, that family is at a greater risk or inflicting or suffering child maltreatment.

Below is a list of factors that contribute to a child’s risk for maltreatment.

Child

Risk

Factors

Premature birth, birth anomalies, low birth weight, exposure to toxins in utero
Temperament: difficult or slow to warm up
Physical/cognitive/emotional disability, chronic or serious illness
Childhood trauma
Anti-social peer group
Age
Child aggression, behavior problems, attention deficits

 

Parental/Family

Risk

Factors

Personality Factors
External locus of control
Poor impulse control
Depression/anxiety
Low tolerance for frustration
Feelings of insecurity
Lack of trust
Insecure attachment with own parents
Childhood history of abuse
High parental conflict, domestic violence
Family structure - single parent with lack of support, high number of children in household
Social isolation, lack of support
Parental psychopathology
Substance abuse
Separation/divorce, especially high conflict divorce
Age
High general stress level
Poor parent-child interaction, negative attitudes and attributions about child 's behavior
Inaccurate knowledge and expectations about child development

 

Social/Environmental

Risk

Factors

 

Low socioeconomic status
Stressful life events
Lack of access to medical care, health insurance, adequate child care, and social services
Parental unemployment; homelessness
Social isolation/lack of social support
Exposure to racism/discrimination
Poor schools
Exposure to environmental toxins
Dangerous/violent neighborhood
Community violence

 

*Please note that this is not an all-inclusive or exhaustive list. These factors do not imply causality and should not be interpreted as such.