Patterns of risk and protective factors in the intergenerational cycle of maltreatment

Louise Dixon, Kevin Browne, Catherine Hamilton-Giachritsis

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This study investigates the continuation and discontinuation of the intergenerational transmission of child maltreatment within the first 13 months of the child's life. Differences in risk factors and parenting styles between families who initiate (Initiators), maintain (Maintainers) or break (Cycle Breakers) the intergenerational cycle of child maltreatment are explored in comparison to control families (Controls). One hundred and three Health Visitors were trained to assess risk factors and parenting styles of 4,351 families, at both 4-6 weeks and 3-5 months after birth. Maintainers, Initiators and Cycle Breakers had a significantly higher prevalence for the majority of risk factors and poor parenting styles than Controls. Protective factors of financial solvency and social support distinguished Cycle Breakers from Maintainers and Initiators. Therefore, it is the presence of protective factors that distinguish Cycle Breakers from families who were referred to Child Protection professionals in the first year after birth. A conceptual, hierarchical model that considers history of abuse, risk and protective factors, in turn, is proposed to assess families for the potential of child maltreatment.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)111-122
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Family Violence
Issue number2
Early online date24 Nov 2008
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2009


  • Intergenerational transmission
  • Parenting
  • Risk factors
  • Child maltreatment


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