Breaking the Cycle of Child Abuse and Neglect

The most frequently cited risk factor in the child abuse and neglect literature is a childhood history of maltreatment. Adults who were abused as children are at increased risk of abusing their own children. However, this "cycle of violence" is not inevitable, and estimates vary as to the precise risk of repeating abuse with one's own children. Retrospective studies of abusive parents yield a much higher rate of a cycle of abuse than do prospective studies of abused children. As with other risk factors, abuse in childhood alone is not sufficient to predict problematic later behavior, including becoming an abusive parent. Research has suggested that protective factors, including an important significant other in childhood, good therapeutic intervention, and/or a supportive spouse can decrease the risk of repeating the cycle of abuse.

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