Age; health; and physical, mental, emotional, and social development are factors that may increase a child's vulnerability to maltreatment. Infants and young children, due to their small physical size, early developmental status, and need for constant care, can be particularly vulnerable to certain forms of maltreatment, such as abusive head trauma and physical or medical neglect. The demands of caring for these children may overwhelm their parents. This page provides resources on child factors associated with child abuse and neglect.
Autism & Wandering
National Center for Missing & Exploited Children
Provides free resources and trainings to help professionals and families mitigate risk factors for wandering for children on the autism spectrum.
Contributing Factors to Child Abuse and Neglect
Outlines societal, adult, and child contributing factors to the risk of child abuse and neglect. Child factors listed include illness, disability, crying, feeding problems, tantrums, biting, disobedience and lying, physical appearance, and poor grades.
LGBTQ Youth and Sexual Abuse: Information for Mental Health Professionals (PDF - 1,326 KB)
National Child Traumatic Stress Network (2014)
Provides information on issues and concerns for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) youth related to sexual orientation and sexual abuse. It also includes a section for parents on issues to be aware of regarding LGBTQ youth, including sexual abuse.
Prevalence Of Adverse Childhood Experiences (aces) Among US Children (article in Children and Youth Services Review)
Crouch & Probst & Radcliff & Bennett & McKinney (2019)
Child Abuse and Neglect, 92
Examines the prevalence of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) among children in the United States to determine the relationship between child and family characteristics and the likelihood of reported exposure to ACEs.
National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments
Reveals how runaway and homeless youth, especially lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender youth, are more likely to be victims of sexual abuse and child trafficking.
Selected Library Resources: Child Factors Associated With Maltreatment
Presents research articles from prior to 2016 related to child factors associated with child abuse and neglect and that have contributed to the literature on the social ecological framework for conceptualizing risk factors for child maltreatment.
Adolescent Maltreatment in the Child Welfare System and Developmental Patterns of Sexual Risk Behaviors
Fowler, Motley, Zhang, Rolls-Reutz, & Landsverk (2015)
Child Maltreatment, 20(1)
Explores whether adolescent maltreatment and being placed in out-of-home care serves as a risk factor for sexual risk behaviors in adolescents involved in the child welfare system.
Child Trends (2019)
Explores how younger children have a higher risk for child maltreatment and examines trends in risk factors and key facts about child maltreatment in the United States from 1990 to 2017.
InBrief: The Science of Neglect
Harvard University, Center on the Developing Child
Discusses how the absence of caregiver responsiveness can cause harm to a young child's developing brain and affect executive functioning skills and the body’s stress response. The webpage includes a 5-minute video and links to a resource that explores additional research on this topic.
Protective Factors Buffer Life Stress and Behavioral Health Outcomes Among High-Risk Youth
Sharma, Mustanski, Dick, Bolland, & Kertes (2019)
Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 47
Presents the results of a study that tested the potential protective factors of religiosity, parental monitoring, and neighborhood characteristics on life stress and behavioral outcomes for high-risk youth living in high-poverty neighborhoods.
Securing a Bright Future: Maltreated Infants and Toddlers
Cohen & Herrick (2016)
ZERO TO THREE
Emphasizes the developmental needs of infants and toddlers in the child welfare system and discusses how maltreatment of this age group negatively affects intellectual functioning and social and emotional well-being. The brief outlines policy recommendations to ensure better care for young children in foster care.
Maltreatment of Children Under Age 2 With Specific Birth Defects: A Population-Based Study (PDF - 338 KB)
Van Horne, Moffitt, Canfield, Case, Greely, Morgan, & Mitchell (2015)
Explores the risk of maltreatment for children under age 2 with specific types of birth defects, including Down syndrome, cleft lip with or without cleft palate, and spina bifida.
Special Needs, Higher Abuse Risk
Discusses how children with special health-care needs may be at higher risk for maltreatment.
Abuse and Exploitation of People With Developmental Disabilities
Explains the high risk of abuse and exploitation experienced by children with developmental disabilities and provides links to information about physical abuse, sexual abuse, neglect, psychological abuse, exploitation, financial fraud, and other issues.
For Children With Disabilities
Chicago Children's Advocacy Center
Outlines special considerations for preventing, recognizing, and responding to the abuse of children with disabilities.
Maltreatment Risk Among Children With Disabilities
Maclean, Sims, Bower, Leonard, Stanley, & O’Donnell (2017)
Examines the risk of maltreatment in children with different types of disabilities. Results showed children and youth with intellectual disabilities, mental/behavioral problems, and conduct disorders had increased risk compared with other disability types.
Recognizing and Preventing Abuse
Discusses safety concerns of children with autism and developmental disabilities and their increased risk of abuse, violence, and neglect. The webpage also provides information about how to prevent, recognize, and respond to abuse as well as a list of additional resources.
The Risk and Prevention of Maltreatment of Children with Disabilities
Safety and Children With Disabilities: Abuse and Neglect
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2019)
Provides facts about disability and maltreatment and discusses steps parents can take to protect children with disabilities from abuse and neglect.