Research has uncovered a number of risk factors or attributes commonly associated with maltreatment. Children in families and environments where these factors exist have a greater likelihood of experiencing maltreatment.
A greater understanding of risk factors can help professionals working with children and families to identify stressors and situations that put them at increased risk for child abuse and neglect and intervene and support them before maltreatment occurs. It must be emphasized, however, that while certain factors often are present among families where maltreatment occurs, this does not mean that the presence of these factors causes child abuse and neglect.
Certain conditions or attributes, called protective factors, may lessen the likelihood of children being abused or neglected. By identifying protective factors, professionals can acquire a more holistic view of family experiences and engage with other service providers in developing a multiservice system response. Understanding the role of protective factors is as important as recognizing risk factors.
Common factors associated with increased risk of child maltreatment are often categorized as follows:
- Parent or caregiver factors that contribute to child abuse and neglect
- Child factors that contribute to child abuse and neglect
- Family factors that contribute to child abuse and neglect
- Community and environmental factors that contribute to child abuse and neglect
- Risk factors for recurrence of child abuse and neglect
- Co-occurring risk factors for child abuse and neglect
Child Maltreatment Report 2021 (PDF - 6,972 KB)
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families (2023)
Presents national data about child abuse and neglect known to child protective services agencies in the United States during fiscal year 2021. The report includes data on responses to reports of maltreatment, child victim and perpetrator demographics, and child fatality rates.
Promoting Protective Factors for In-Risk Families and Youth: A Guide for Practitioners
Promoting Protective Factors for Victims of Child Abuse and Neglect: A Guide for Practitioners
Risk and Protective Factors
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Describes individual, family, and community factors associated with child abuse and neglect.