Child abuse potential: Correlates with child maltreatment rates and structural measures of neighborhoods

Darcey H. Merritt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This community-based research investigates differential child maltreatment rates per 1000 same-age population within communities, and compares the rates to survey data that capture the potential for child abuse by a random sample of individuals in the same community in order to evaluate the impact of neighborhood conditions (e.g., maltreatment rates, child care burden, poverty) and individual factors (e.g., demographic and network support) on parents' potential for abuse. This study used a National Data Archive on Child Abuse and Neglect dataset comparing 20 census tracks and 400 cases of substantiated maltreatment claims. Data were analyzed with hierarchical linear models to account for the nested sampling design. The relationship between substantiated maltreatment in a given community and the potential to abuse was significant, and parents' potential for abuse increased when they were men, lived in impoverished communities, or were burdened by child care demands; abuse potential decreased when they were married (vs. single), working full time (vs. not working), had at least a high school diploma (vs. no diploma), enjoyed a higher income and when they had support from families and friends. Findings suggest that policymakers focus attention on increasing financial resources, educational opportunities, and relieving child care demands for families at risk of abuse.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)927-934
Number of pages8
JournalChildren and Youth Services Review
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2009


  • Child abuse potential
  • Child maltreatment
  • Hierarchical linear modeling
  • Multi-level analysis
  • Neighborhoods

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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