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Household Composition and the Risk of Child Abuse and Neglect

NCJ Number
Journal of Biosocial Science Volume: 12 Issue: 3 Dated: (1980) Pages: 333-340
M I Wilson; M Daly; S J Weghorst
Date Published
8 pages
This study determined the incidence of child abuse and neglect resulting in validated case reports to the American Humane Association in 1976 in relation to household composition, family income, and victim's age.
The sample consisted of 87,789 children abused or neglected or both from 28 States and 3 territories. Data on household composition and on income categories of the abuse and neglect families were combined with the household composition estimates and with income data for the population at large in order to arrive at estimated incidence rates for abuse and neglect in various household composition and income circumstances. Four household compositions were studied: both natural parents, natural parent plus stepparent, natural mother only, and natural father only. Data revealed that the father-only household entailed the highest risk of both abuse and neglect; household ranked second in risk of neglect, with age-specific incidences 2.3 to 3.1 times as high as in the population at large. The stepparent household differed from other household types in that abuse was almost as prevalent as neglect. The percentage of the total validated cases which involved abuse was determined for each of seven household types: two natural parents, 34.4 percent; natural mother only, 21.2 percent; natural father only, 30.4 percent; other relatives, 30.9 percent; natural mother and father substitute, 54.2 percent; natural father and mother substitute, 59.1 percent; and adoptive or foster parents, 59.1 percent. These results suggest that household composition is highly relevant to the risk of abuse and neglect. Two figures, 1 table, and 25 references are included.


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