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March 2005Vol. 6, No. 2State Data Provide Key Information on Risk Factors for Infant Maltreatment

Children under the age of 1 year account for the largest percentage of maltreatment victims in this country. In a recent study, researchers investigated perinatal and sociodemographic risk factors associated with infant maltreatment. The study involved nearly 4,500 infants in Florida with a verified report of maltreatment prior to the age of 1 year. Data were gathered from several State databases, including Vital Statistics (birth certificates), Child Protective Services, and Medicaid. Of the 15 risk factors included in the analysis, 11 were associated with infant maltreatment. The five most significant risk factors were:

  • Smoking during pregnancy
  • More than two siblings
  • Medicaid beneficiary
  • Unmarried marital status
  • Low birth weight

Results showed that mothers and infants with at least four of the top five risk factors had maltreatment rates seven times higher than the population average. Moreover, mothers with at least three of these five risk factors accounted for more than one-half of all infant maltreatment cases.

Findings from this study have implications for both policy and practice. Because all data were gathered from State data sources, this study can serve as an example of how other States might use their own data to develop an epidemiologic risk-assessment tool to identify families to participate in child abuse prevention programs. In terms of practice, programs working with pregnant women can place a greater emphasis on addressing stress and other underlying conditions that contribute to tobacco use.

This article, "Risk factors for Infant Maltreatment: A Population-Based Study," is available in the December 2004 issue of Child Abuse and Neglect. Copies can be purchased from the publisher at