Research has not proven that particular characteristics or personality traits lead caregivers to maltreat their children. However, there are certain characteristics of parents or caregivers that do place children at greater risk of abuse or neglect. Use the following resources to learn more about some of these traits and characteristics, such as mental health, response to stress, and trauma history.
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.
Child Abuse and Neglect: Risk and Protective Factors
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Discusses the individual, relational, community, and societal factors that increase the risk of child abuse and neglect. This resource also discusses protective factors that mitigate the risk of child maltreatment.
Child Maltreatment Fact Sheet
World Health Organization (2016)
Provides information on child maltreatment, including key facts and risk factors for child abuse. The risk factors list parent or caregiver characteristics that may raise the likelihood of abuse.
Contributing Factors to Child Abuse and Neglect: Possible Adult Contributing Factors
Children's Hospital of Wisconsin (2017)
Describes contributing factors that could make a parent or caregiver more likely to abuse children. These include a history of being abused, stress, substance abuse, mental health issues, and other factors.
Parents' Assessment of Protective Factors: User's Guide and Technical Report (PDF - 2,662 KB)
Kiplinger & Brown (2014)
Discusses the Parents' Assessment of Protective Factors, a measure to assess the presence, strength, and growth of parents' self-reported beliefs, feelings, and behaviors that are regarded as protective factors. Protective factors are conditions or attributes of individuals, families, communities, or the larger society that both mitigate risk factors and actively enhance child well-being.
Risk Factors of Child Abuse: Parental Factors
Lists factors and parental characteristics that could increase the risk of child abuse. These include previous abuse of a child, an unwanted pregnancy, a background of abuse, lack of support, isolation, and mental health or substance use problems.
Understanding and Preventing Child Abuse and Neglect
American Psychological Association
Explains parent/caregiver and family risk factors that contribute to child abuse and neglect, including low self-esteem, experiencing childhood abuse, and joblessness.