Risk factors of child abuse potential: Investigation of developmental-ecological, cumulative risk, and threshold models
ABSTRACT Due to support for an accumulation of risk factors in predicting child maltreatment potential, researchers have looked towards a broad developmental-ecological theory to understand maltreatment and the overlapping contributions that both organism and environment make to it. The theory assumes that multiple levels of risk, from individual characteristics to larger socioenvironmental factors, must be taken into account when attempting to understand the antecedents of child maltreatment. This study investigated Belsky's model, as well as cumulative and threshold effects models of risk. The study extends the literature by providing results based upon risk for child maltreatment using the gold-standard risk instrument (i.e., child abuse potential) rather than occurrence rates (i.e., CPS reports). Results support the importance of the original risk factors proposed by Belsky (1993), concluding that risk factors most likely contribute to the prediction of child maltreatment in a cumulative sense, such that the more risk factors present in the model, the more risk for child maltreatment. This finding provides support for the cumulative effects, but is counter to the threshold effects model, as there is not a particular "tipping point" beyond which child abuse potential is dramatically.