A person who engages in child abuse or neglect (sometimes referred to as a "perpetrator") is a person who has been determined to have caused or knowingly allowed the maltreatment of a child. Most States define perpetrators of child abuse and neglect as parents and other caregivers (such as relatives, babysitters, and foster parents) who have harmed a child in their care. It is important to note that States define the term "caregiver" differently. Harm caused to a child by others (such as acquaintances or strangers) may not be considered child abuse or neglect; rather, it may be considered a criminal matter.
In this section, find research on the characteristics of people who engage in child maltreatment, including those who commit certain types of abuse or neglect.
- People who engage in neglect
- People who engage in physical abuse
- People who engage in sexual abuse or exploitation
- People who engage in emotional or psychological abuse
- Parental substance abuse
Clermont County (Ohio) Children's Protective Services
Provides common characteristics of adults who abuse children, such as poor self-concept, immaturity, history of substance abuse, and more. The webpage also includes physical and behavioral indicators that a child may be a victim of physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional maltreatment, and neglect.
Child Maltreatment in Military Families: A Fact Sheet for Providers (PDF - 770 KB)
The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (2015)
Provides information on child maltreatment, as well as domestic violence, in military families and reviews interventions to support these families.
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Child Welfare Information Gateway
Download (PDF - 924KB)
Intergenerational Transmission of Child Abuse and Neglect: Do Maltreatment Type, Perpetrator, and Substantiation Status Matter?
Barlett, Botake, Fauth & Easterbrooks (2017)
Child Abuse & Neglect, 63
Examines the role of maltreatment type, the identity of the perpetrator, and the substantiation status of reports to child protective services on intergenerational transmission of maltreatment.
Number of Child Abuse Victims in the United States in 2019, By Perpetrator Relationship
Presents a snapshot of child maltreatment in the United States in 2019 that is sorted by perpetrator relationship to the child. Mothers were the number one perpetrators of child maltreatment, followed by fathers, mother and father, and mother and nonparent(s).
A Review on The Perpetrators of Child Abuse
Review of Social Sciences, 1(3)
Reviews articles and research papers on the issues of child abuse and perpetrations to determine factors of vulnerability, such as age, family climate, personality, and victim to victimizer cycle.
Risk and Protective Factors
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2020)
Provides risk and protective factors for maltreatment, including at the individual, family, and community levels.