High-risk neighborhoods and high-risk families: the human ecology of child maltreatment

Child Dev. 1980 Mar;51(1):188-98.


Based on multiple regression analysis to identify the socioeconomic, demographic, and attitudinal correlates of neighborhood differences in the rate of child abuse and neglect, a pair of neighborhoods matched for socioeconomic level was selected, one high risk, the other low risk. Interviews with expert informants ranging from elementary school principals to mailmen were used to develop neighborhood profiles. Samples of families were drawn from each neighborhood and interviews conducted to identify stresses and supports, with special emphasis on sources of help, social networks, evaluation of the neighborhood, and use of formal family support systems. The results lend support to the concept of neighborhood "risk." Families in the high-risk neighborhood, though socioeconomically similar to families in the low-risk neighborhood, report less positive evaluation of the neighborhood as a context for child and family development. Furthermore, they reveal a general pattern of "social impoverishment" in comparison with families in the low-risk neighborhood.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child Abuse*
  • Child Care / methods
  • Child, Preschool
  • Family*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Mothers / psychology
  • Quality of Life
  • Risk
  • Social Environment*
  • Socioeconomic Factors