Onset of physical abuse and neglect: psychiatric, substance abuse, and social risk factors from prospective community data

Child Abuse Negl. 1996 Mar;20(3):191-203. doi: 10.1016/s0145-2134(95)00144-1.


Studies of psychiatric and social risk factors for child maltreatment have been limited by retrospective methodologies and reliance on officially reported or identified samples. Using data from both Waves I and II of the National Institute for Mental Health's Epidemiologic Catchment Area survey, 7,103 parents from a probabilistic community sample who did not self-report physical abuse or neglect of their children at Wave I were followed to determine the risk factors associated with the onset of self-reported physical abuse or neglect identified at Wave II. Social factors considered included age, socioeconomic status, social support, education, household size, and gender. In addition, several psychiatric disorders, including substance abuse disorders and depression were examined. Risk models were developed using hierarchical logistic regression. Physical abuse and neglect were found to have distinct sets of risk factors, with minimal overlap between the groups. Social and demographic variables were found to be limited predictors of maltreatment, while substance abuse disorders were strongly associated with the onset of both abuse and neglect (relative risks = 2.90 and 3.24 respectively). Depression was found to be a strong risk factor for physical abuse (relative risk = 3.45). Implications of the findings are discussed in terms of major causal models of maltreatment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antisocial Personality Disorder / complications
  • Child
  • Child Abuse / psychology*
  • Child Abuse / statistics & numerical data
  • Data Collection
  • Depression / complications
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder / complications
  • Panic Disorder / complications
  • Risk Factors
  • Schizophrenia / complications
  • Social Support
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Substance-Related Disorders / complications