Socio-demographic factors in physical child maltreatment risk
Paternal psychosocial factors in physical child maltreatment
Inflicted closed-head injury (shaken baby syndrome) in NC: 44% fathers, 20 % mothers’ boyfriends, 7% by mothers.
Child maltreatment-related fatalities in Missouri: 21% mothers, 23% fathers, & 44% unrelated males in the household.
The role of fathers regarding physical child abuse and neglect has grown in conjunction with increased acknowledgement of the major sociological shifts taking place in relation to fathers’ roles in American families more generally.
Interest in developmental research and public discourse in the 1980s and 1990s initially focused on the connection between fathers’ presence (or absence) and child developmental outcomes.
Prior research has implicated that influence of fathers indirectly, observing single parenthood, as a risk factor for physical child abuse and neglect.
Another empirical pattern was found with low socio-economic status and risk for child abuse and neglect. There are many economic and psychosocial stresses which accompany a family’s low socioeconomic status.
Prior research also shows a pattern between social network relationships and physical child abuse and neglect.
Psychodynamic, family systems, and attachment theories
The article examines the many potential father pathways that may shape physical child abuse and neglect risk and the existing empirical evidence in relation to these pathways.
Higher maltreatment rates are seen in single-parent households
The Third National Incidence Study reported that children in single-parent families experienced a 77% greater risk of being harmed by physical abuse and 87% greater risk of being physically neglected.
Father absence leads to familial economic deprivation
34% of single-mother-headed households live below the poverty level (as compared with 16% of single-father headed households)
Whether a father resides at home or not, he may play a variety of roles, economically related and otherwise, that shape a child’s safety, risk, and well-being.
Economic hardship is one of the most consistently identified risk factors for physical child abuse and neglect.
Severe or fatal injuries due to physical abuse and neglect are more likely to be found among families with low annual incomes.
The risk of recurrent abuse appears to be related to the length of time a family has been in poverty.
Unemployed fathers are far more likely than employed fathers to physically abuse their children
Unemployment may provoke a father to attempt to reassert his authority by engaging in physically abusive and violent behaviors toward the child &/or other family members
Economic hardship has been closely related to greater transience in residence, lower educational attainment, higher rates of mental health disorders (including substance abuse), and less adequate social support, each of which may also independently influence fathers’ problematic parenting as a consequence.
As with mothers, the age at which a man becomes a parent plays a role in the degree to which risk and protective elements may be in place, shaping the potential for physical child abuse and neglect, particularly if this age is a very young one
Adolescent fathers begin to experience inordinate stress, fear, and negative emotions from the point at which they discover that a woman they have had sexual relations with is pregnant
Early fatherhood is linked to more negative attitudes and behaviors
Younger fathers are more likely to experience economic hardships
Several studies of young fathers have reported their relative lack of preparedness for fatherhood, both cognitively and emotionally.
Depression & social isolation is common among younger fathers.
Involved with illicit activities and drug use
At present, the large majority of studies in this area relies on small numbers of study participants, the majority of whom have been limited to African American and low-income fathers or fathers already identified as at risk.