Child Maltreatment and High Risk Families

By Julie Taylor; Anne Lazenbatt | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 4
Causality and the interaction of risk
factors

Introduction

This chapter provides evidence that there is no single known cause of child abuse. It also illustrates that, although child maltreatment and especially child physical abuse occur across socio-economic, religious, cultural, racial and ethnic groups, research now recognises a number of risk factors commonly associated with maltreatment. Evidence supports the view that child abuse arises from the interaction of multiple factors across various inter-locking domains: parent and caregiver factors; child and family factors; and environmental factors. However, it must be emphasised that, while certain risk factors often are present among families where maltreatment occurs, this does not mean that the presence of these factors will always result in child abuse and neglect. A greater understanding of these risk factors can help professionals working with children and families both to identify maltreatment and high risk families and to intervene appropriately.

Most parents love their children and do everything in their power to protect them from harm and ensure they have the best possible upbringing. Even before they are born, children require parents who will provide for their physical, social and emotional needs, through the expression of love, a sense of security and the provision of care. Children, especially when they are younger, depend on parents and family to provide the stability and security required to form meaningful attachments, and to grow and develop in ways that are positive. It is easy to become dislodged from this fact when focusing on high risk families, but it is an important tenet and one that provides a good starting point. Thus, while the overwhelming majority of parents want the very best for their children, sometimes they are either unable or unwilling to provide this.

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