Risk factors for child maltreatment recurrence: An updated systematic review

Med Sci Law. 2015 Oct;55(4):259-77. doi: 10.1177/0025802414543855. Epub 2014 Aug 8.


Objectives: Children who have been maltreated are at increased risk of further maltreatment. Identification of those at highest risk of further maltreatment is a priority for professionals working in child protection services. The current study is intended to consolidate and expand on previous work on recurrence of child maltreatment. It has sought to identify risk factors for maltreatment recurrence in the recent literature in the expectation that this may help in the practical identification of children at risk.

Methods: We conducted a systematic review of cohort studies published between 2003 and 2009, identifying factors associated with maltreatment recurrence in children. Studies included demonstrated differing levels of substantiation of maltreatment.

Results: Fifteen studies met inclusion criteria but showed significant heterogeneity, varying in setting, recruitment of subjects, types of maltreatment considered and length of follow-up. Previous findings were replicated and expanded in the current study in relation to a range of factors, including rates of maltreatment recurrence, maltreatment types, frequency of previous episodes of maltreatment, child and family considerations, home environment and service provision. Factors were identified irrespective of level of maltreatment substantiation.

Conclusion: This study provides further systematic evidence of the existence of a number of factors associated with child maltreatment recurrence. It points to the possibility of practical application of its findings within the wider context of decision making in child protection services, with the ultimate aim of reducing recurrence of maltreatment in individual cases.

Keywords: Child maltreatment; re-referral; re-reporting; recurrence; risk assessment; risk factors.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Abuse / prevention & control*
  • Child of Impaired Parents / psychology
  • Humans
  • Recurrence
  • Risk Assessment / methods
  • Risk Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors