Risk & Protective Factors

Research recognizes a number of risk & protective factors commonly associated with maltreatment.

Risk Factors - Children in families and environments where these factors exist have a higher probability of experiencing maltreatment. A greater understanding of risk factors can help professionals working with children and families identify maltreatment and high-risk situations so they can intervene appropriately. It must be emphasized, however, that while certain 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.

Factors associated with increased risk of child maltreatment are often grouped according to the following categories:


Protective factors are conditions in families and communities that, when present, increase the health and well-being of children and families. These attributes serve as buffers, helping parents to find resources, supports, or coping strategies that allow them to parent effectively, even under stress.

Research has shown that the following protective factors are linked to a lower incidence of child abuse and neglect:

For more information on risk and protective factors, please visit the Child Welfare Information Gateway or download this file on Strengthening Families.


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