The Effects of Father-Perpetration of Maltreatment on Adolescent Health Risk

J Interpers Violence. 2022 Aug;37(15-16):NP13092-NP13114. doi: 10.1177/08862605211001484. Epub 2021 Mar 25.


Maltreatment perpetrated by fathers may entail distinct characteristics and threats, and therefore differing effects from maltreatment perpetrated by mothers alone. This study examines the extent to which father perpetration of maltreatment is associated with variability in subsequent adolescent health outcomes relative to mother-alone maltreatment. A sample of youth (N = 377) with recently completed Child Protective Services investigations concerning reports of maltreatment attributed to fathers and/or mothers was drawn from the second National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-being. Youth were 11-17 years old (M = 13.8, SD = 2) at 18-month follow-up. Predictor variables (baseline) included caseworker-reported perpetrator (father vs mother alone), maltreatment type and severity, and co-occurring risk factors (prior reports of maltreatment, caregiver substance use, serious mental health problems, and recent arrest or detention, and intimate partner violence). Outcome measures were youth-reported sexual risk behavior (the number of past-year sexual partners), substance use severity (use of illicit drugs other than marijuana, number of substances used, and CRAFFT raw scores), and parent-to-adolescent physical aggression (minor, moderate, and severe) at 18-month follow-up. Structural equation modeling assessed the effects of father perpetration on outcomes. Father perpetration was prospectively associated with more parent-to-adolescent aggression (β = 0.16, p = .034) and less sexual risk behavior (β = -0.17, p = .017) than mother-alone perpetration. Findings suggest protective effects of father perpetration relative to mother-alone perpetration on sexual risk taking but greater risk on further victimization by parents. Future research is needed to replicate findings and examine potential youth gender differences.

Keywords: alcohol and drugs; child abuse; child abusers; children exposed to domestic violence; domestic violence.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Health
  • Child
  • Child Abuse* / psychology
  • Crime Victims* / psychology
  • Fathers
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intimate Partner Violence* / psychology
  • Male
  • Substance-Related Disorders*