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Child Maltreat. 2005 May;10(2):136-49.

The role of fathers in risk for physical child abuse and neglect: possible pathways and unanswered questions.

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Columbia University School of Social Work, New York, New York 10027, USA.


Despite overrepresentation of fathers as perpetrators in cases of severe physical child abuse and neglect, the role they play in shaping risk for physical child abuse and neglect is not yet well understood. This article reviews the possible father pathways that may contribute to physical child abuse and neglect risk and their existing empirical support. The present empirical base implicates a set of sociodemographic factors in physical maltreatment risk, including fathers' absence, age, employment status, and income they provide to the family. As well, paternal psychosocial factors implicated in physical child maltreatment risk include fathers' abuse of substances, their own childhood experiences of maltreatment, the nature of fathers' relationships with mothers, and the direct care they provide to the child. However, the empirical base presently suffers from significant methodological limitations, preventing more definitive identification of risk factors or causal processes. Given this, the present article offers questions and recommendations for future research and prevention.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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