The association between family physical environment and child maltreatment

Publication Year


Journal Article

A body of emerging research has indicated that adverse family physical environment is related to parenting problems such as parent-child conflict, decreased caregiver sensitivity, and less parental emotional availability. Yet, no study has examined if family physical environment is also associated with child abuse and neglect.

This study aimed to examine the relationships between family physical environment and different types of child maltreatment.

Participants and Setting
The study sample includes 1,624 mothers who participated in both year 3 and year 5 surveys of the U.S. Fragile Family and Child Well-Being Study (FFCWS).

Family physical environment was measured by the Infant-Toddler Child Care Home Observation of Environment (HOME). Child maltreatment was assessed by the Conflict Tactics Scale: Parent-Child Version (CTS-PC), and mother’s self-report if child protective services had a concern about the family’s child maltreatment. Multivariate logistic regression models were run to test if family interior (i.e., inside house conditions) or exterior (i.e., immediate outside house conditions) environment would predict child abuse and neglect, while controlling for a series of covariates.

Results indicated that family exterior environment was not related to any type of child abuse and neglect. However, family interior environment was significantly associated with child neglect (OR = 1.10; 95% CI = 1.02–1.20), but not with physical abuse, emotional abuse, and sexual abuse.

Study findings suggest that family interior environment is significantly associated with initial or ongoing child neglect. Implications for future research and practice are discussed.

Children and Youth Services Review