Research has identified a number of parent or caregiver factors that potentially contribute to maltreatment. These include substance use, unresolved mental health issues, the young age of a parent, lack of education, difficulty bonding or nurturing with the child, prior history of child abuse, or other trauma.
Protective factors that can help build on the strengths of parents and caregivers include support networks, employment, education, access to services, stress management, and other attributes that build resilience.
Use the following resources to learn more about parent or caregiver traits and characteristics that may contribute to an increased risk for child maltreatment.
World Health Organization (2020)
Provides information on child maltreatment, including key facts and risk factors, including parent or caregiver characteristics that may raise the likelihood of maltreatment.
Contributing Factors to Child Abuse and Neglect
Children's Hospital of Wisconsin
Describes contributing factors to maltreatment, including those that could make a parent or caregiver more likely to abuse children. These include a history of being abused, stress, substance use, mental health issues, and other factors.
The Evidence Base: Child Maltreatment Risk Factors
University of Texas at Austin, Child and Family Research Partnership (2019)
Describes risk factors for child maltreatment, including parent or caregiver risk factors such as domestic violence, substance use, history of child abuse, mental health issues, and maternal characteristics.
Knowledge of Parenting and Child Development: Protective & Promotive Factors (PDF - 189 KB)
Center for the Study of Social Policy (2018)
Explains how parents and caregivers can benefit from increasing their knowledge and understanding of child development. The brief discusses the role of parental behaviors that lead to early secure attachments as well as the rise of insecure attachments when parental care is inconsistent, unresponsive, detached, hostile, or rejecting. It also lists actions caseworkers can take to increase knowledge of parenting and child development, questions to ask parents, and activities to do with parents to increase their knowledge of parenting and child development.
A Review on the Perpetrators of Child Abuse
Review of Social Sciences, 1(3)
Explores parental factors that can contribute to child neglect or abuse, including age, parents' personalities, and more.
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.
Selected Library Resources: Parent or Caregiver Risk Factors for Child Maltreatment
Presents research articles from prior to 2016 related to parent or caregiver risk factors for child abuse and neglect and that have contributed to the literature on the social ecological framework for conceptualizing risk factors for child maltreatment.
Understanding and Preventing Child Abuse and Neglect
American Psychological Association
Explains parent or caregiver and family risk factors that contribute to child abuse and neglect, including low self-esteem, experiencing childhood abuse, and joblessness.