Community Interaction and Child Maltreatment

Publication Year


Journal Article
The way in which parents interact with their environment may have implications for their likelihood of abuse and neglect. This study examines the parent-environment relationship through community involvement and perception, using social disorganization theory. We hypothesize mothers who participate in their communities and have positive perceptions of them may be less likely to maltreat their children because of the potential protective capacity of neighborhood supports. Using information from the 5 year Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study (n=2991), the mother's self-reported acts of psychological and physical maltreatment and neglect are measured. A mother's community involvement index is the number of community activities a mother was involved in, and community perception is measured by two five-item Likert scales assessing perception of community collective efficacy. We analyze the relationship between community variables and each of mother's maltreatment behaviors as well as the interaction between community factors using a series of nested logistic regressions. Higher levels of community involvement are associated with lower levels of psychological aggression. More positive perception of community social control is associated with lower levels of physical assault. A moderation effect of community perception suggests that a mother's perception of her community changes the relationship between community involvement and psychological child abuse. The results provide important policy and empirical implications to build positive and supportive communities as a protective factor in child maltreatment. Getting parents involved in their communities can improve the environment in which children and families develop, and decrease the likelihood that maltreatment will occur.
Child Abuse & Neglect