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Links between physical abuse in childhood and child neglect among adolescent mothers


  • Bartlett, Jessica Dym
  • Easterbrooks, M. Ann


Children born to the youngest mothers are at substantial risk for neglect. Neglect is multiply determined, but a maternal childhood history of maltreatment is an especially influential parenting determinant. This study investigated the etiology of neglect among very young mothers (<17years; n=92), focusing on adolescents' experiences in childhood. We hypothesized that a history of childhood physical abuse would increase the odds of neglect, whereas a history of childhood positive care would decrease the odds of neglect. Results showed that one in four mothers was neglectful, and neglect was four times as likely with a maternal history of physical abuse in childhood than with no history of maltreatment. As expected, a maternal history of positive care in childhood decreased the likelihood of neglect. Mothers with a history of both childhood physical abuse and positive care were not at increased risk for neglect, suggesting a compensatory effect of care experiences within the context of an abusive relationship. Findings affirm that adolescent mothers are at considerable risk for perpetuating cycles of maltreatment leading to child neglect, and that nuanced descriptions of their childhood histories are essential for understanding cycles of maltreatment.

Suggested Citation

  • Bartlett, Jessica Dym & Easterbrooks, M. Ann, 2012. "Links between physical abuse in childhood and child neglect among adolescent mothers," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 34(11), pages 2164-2169.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:cysrev:v:34:y:2012:i:11:p:2164-2169 DOI: 10.1016/j.childyouth.2012.07.011

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Kim, Jinseok, 2009. "Type-specific intergenerational transmission of neglectful and physically abusive parenting behaviors among young parents," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 31(7), pages 761-767, July.
    2. Easterbrooks, M. Ann & Chaudhuri, Jana H. & Bartlett, Jessica Dym & Copeman, Abby, 2011. "Resilience in parenting among young mothers: Family and ecological risks and opportunities," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 33(1), pages 42-50, January.
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    1. repec:hal:wpaper:halshs-01305961 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. repec:eee:cysrev:v:79:y:2017:i:c:p:355-361 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Fakunmoju, Sunday B. & Bammeke, Funmi O., 2013. "Propensity to perpetrate abusive behaviors: Internet survey of the role of gender, childhood maltreatment, and perception of maltreatment in Nigeria," Children and Youth Services Review, Elsevier, vol. 35(4), pages 725-733.


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