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Risk Factor

What are the Risk Factors for Child Abuse

No single factor on its own can explain why some individuals behave violently towards children or why child maltreatment appears to be more prevalent in certain communities than in others

Increased risk of child abuse is associated with the presence of certain factors in the parent or other family member or family situation.

These risk factors can be divided into four groups:

Child Risk Factors

  • Premature birth, birth abnormalities, low birth weight, exposure to toxins in utero
  • Temperament: difficult or slow to warm up
  • Physical/cognitive/emotional disability, chronic or serious illness
  • Childhood trauma
  • Anti-social peer group
  • Age – younger children are more vulnerable
  • Child aggression, behavior problems, attention deficits

Parental Risk Factors

  • Personality factors – aggressive and/or obsessive
  • Poor impulse control
  • Depression/anxiety
  • Low tolerance for frustration
  • Feelings of insecurity
  • Lack of trust
  • Insecure attachment with own parents
  • Childhood history of abuse
  • High parental conflict, domestic violence

Family Risk Factors

  • Family structure – single parent with lack of support, high number of children in household
  • Social isolation, lack of support
  • Parental psychopathology
  • Substance abuse
  • Separation/divorce, especially high conflict divorce
  • Age
  • High general stress level
  • Poor parent-child interaction, negative attitudes and attributions about child’s behavior
  • Inaccurate knowledge and expectations about child development

Social/Environmental Risk Factors

  • Poverty
  • Stressful life events
  • Lack of access to medical care, health insurance, adequate child care, and social services
  • Parental unemployment; homelessness
  • Social isolation/lack of social support
  • Exposure to racism/discrimination
  • Poor schools
  • Exposure to environmental toxins
  • Dangerous/violent neighborhood
  • Community violence

What is the outcome of Child Abuse?

Short-term consequences

Emotional and behavioural consequences of child abuse

  • Poor self-esteem
  • Hyperactivity
  • Self-inflicted injuries
  • Poor peer relationships
  • Feelings of shame/guilt
  • Somatic disorders, hysteria
  • Deterioration of school performance
  • Eating disorder
  • Depression, anxiety
  • Drug / alcohol abuse

Consequences of physical abuse and emotional abuse

  • Hyperactive, aggressive, easily provoked to violent behaviour
  • Lacking of empathy
  • Emotional vulnerability expressed as bullying or delinquency
  • Problems seen as being fault of others
  • Interpersonal, academic and vocational difficulties

Consequences of emotional neglect

  • Blaming themselves easily
  • Socially unresponsive, emotionally blunted, passive, apathetic
  • Greater probability of being victim of violence as adult
  • Poor impulse control, low self-esteem
  • Sad and easily depressed

Long term consequences of child abuse

Health effects

  • Developmental effects
  • Disability
  • Eating disorders
  • Sleep disorders
  • Depression/anxiety
  • Long term reproductive health outcome
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Infertility

Social effects

  • Delinquency, violent behaviour
  • Self-destructiveness
  • Risk-taking behaviour
  • Increased probability of being abusive parent
  • Alcohol/ drug abuse

Fatal consequences

  • Homicide
  • Suicide
  • Infanticide (killing of babies)
  • AIDS
  • Sex selective abortion
  • Mortality due to adverse reproductive health outcomes.
Last reviewed : 27 April 2012
Content Writer : Dr. Siti Aishah Saidin
Reviewer : Dr. Fuziah bt. Md. Zain