Disentangling Poverty From Neglect: Using a Person-Centered Approach to Examine Risk Factors for Neglect Among Families in Poverty

Publication Year


Journal Article

Approximately 18% of U.S. children under 5 years old live in poverty, which is one of the strongest predictors of child neglect. However, most families in poverty do not engage in neglect and this may be due to heterogeneity in risk factors. This study examined how risk factors co-occurred among families in poverty across early childhood and whether risk profiles were differentially related to physical and supervisory neglect across time. Results suggested there were four risk profiles across early childhood (i.e., years 1 and 3). At year 1, the four profiles in order of prevalence were: Low Risk, High Risk, Depressed and Uninsured, and Stressed with Health Problems. At year 3, the profiles were: Low Risk, High Risk, Depressed with Residential Instability, and Stressed with Health Problems. Overall, the High Risk profile was associated with more physical and supervisory neglect across time compared to the Low Risk profile; however, the Stress with Health Problems profile was also associated with greater physical neglect. These findings illustrate heterogeneity in the risk factors among families in poverty and demonstrate the differential impact of risk exposure on later neglect. Results also provide evidence to practitioners and policymakers about target risk experiences to prevent neglect.

Child Maltreatment