Fathers and maternal risk for physical child abuse

Neil B. Guterman, Yookyong Lee, Shawna J. Lee, Jane Waldfogel, Paul J. Rathouz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study set out to examine father-related factors predicting maternal physical child abuse risk in a national birth cohort of 1,480 families. In-home and phone interviews were conducted with mothers when index children were 3 years old. Predictor variables included the mother-father relationship status; father demographic, economic, and psychosocial variables; and key background factors. Outcome variables included both observed and self-reported proxies of maternal physical child abuse risk. At the bivariate level, mothers married to fathers were at lower risk for most indicators of maternal physical child abuse. However, after accounting for specific fathering factors and controlling for background variables, multivariate analyses indicated that marriage washed out as a protective factor, and on two of three indicators was linked with greater maternal physical abuse risk. Regarding fathering factors linked with risk, fathers' higher educational attainment and their positive involvement with their children most discernibly predicted lower maternal physical child abuse risk. Fathers' economic factors played no observable role in mothers' risk for physical child maltreatment. Such multivariate findings suggest that marriage per se does not appear to be a protective factor for maternal physical child abuse and rather it may serve as a proxy for other father-related protective factors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)277-290
Number of pages14
JournalChild Maltreatment
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2009


  • Fathers
  • Marital status
  • Maternal risk
  • Physical child abuse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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