Aim: To determine characteristics of children that may predispose to maltreatment.
Methods: The research is based on a large cohort study, the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children. Out of 14,256 children participating in the study, 115 have been identified as having been placed on local child protection registers prior to their 6th birthday. Data on the children have been obtained from obstetric data and from a series of parental questionnaires administered during pregnancy and the first 3 years of life. Risk factors have been analysed using logistic regression analysis.
Results: Significant relationships were found between low birthweight (OR 2.08), unintended pregnancies (OR 2.92), poor health (OR 1.91) and developmental problems (OR 1.99) in infancy, and subsequent maltreatment. In addition, mothers of registered children were less likely to have reported positive attributes in their 4-week-old infant. In contrast, negative attributes in infancy, feeding and crying problems, and frequent temper tantrums were not significantly associated with maltreatment.
Conclusions: While child factors are significant, they are only a small part of the overall complex set of circumstances and conditions that ultimately lead to abuse or neglect. Parental attitudes towards the child may be more significant than the actual characteristics of the child.