Stressed parents with infants: reassessing physical abuse risk factors

Child Abuse Negl. 1999 Sep;23(9):845-53. doi: 10.1016/s0145-2134(99)00063-0.


Objective: This study aimed to examine the relationship between a range of potentially adverse psychosocial and demographic characteristics identified in the immediate postpartum period and child physical abuse potential at 7 months.

Method: Data collected as part of a randomized controlled trial of a nurse home visiting programme for vulnerable families with newborns was used. Women (181) were recruited in the immediate postpartum period. At 7 months, 151 participants were available for evaluation. Potential for child physical abuse was assessed using the Child Abuse Potential (CAP) Inventory.

Results: Significant risk indicators identified by univariate analysis were financial stress, elevated Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) scores, education level less than 10 years, concern regarding the provision of housing, and domestic violence characterized by verbal and social abuse. There was no association between child abuse potential and sole parenthood, poverty, young maternal age, history of childhood abuse, or psychiatric history. Two variables were found to be of independent significance using a logistic regression model; elevated EPDS and perceived difficulty "making ends meet."

Conclusions: The findings indicate that perceived stress relating to finances, accommodation and relationships in the immediate postpartum period are associated with heightened child physical abuse potential at 7 months. Elevated EPDS in the early postpartum period is also a risk indicator. The outcome of this study suggests that perinatal assessment of child abuse risk is possible and simple and is related to perceived stressors at the time surrounding delivery. This is independent of a range of demographic variables traditionally thought to predict high risk.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child Abuse / psychology*
  • Demography
  • Female
  • Financing, Personal
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Mother-Child Relations*
  • Postpartum Period
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Support
  • Stress, Psychological*