Neighborhood effects on the etiology of child maltreatment: a multilevel study
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The purpose of this study is to examine the neighborhood effects on the etiology of child maltreatment in light of ecological theory. This study focuses on the neighborhood effects on child maltreatment after controlling for individual and family level factors. Furthermore, it is one of this study’s main goals to highlight the differences between the etiological model for physical child abuse and that of child neglect. This study utilizes data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, which has been designed to examine the causes of health-related behaviors of nationally representative sample of early adults in the U.S. between 2001 and 2002. A series of multilevel logistic regression analyses is employed to address the effects of individual, family, and neighborhood level factors on the risk of child maltreatment. Results indicate that the prevalence rates of child neglect and physical child abuse vary significantly across neighborhood units after controlling for individual and family level factors. This study found that average neighborhood socioeconomic status, violent crime rate, and regional location are significantly associated with the neighborhood level prevalence rate of each type of maltreatment. Furthermore, this study shows that neighborhood effects moderate the impacts of individual and family level factors on the risk of child maltreatment. Various child characteristics are associated in the multilevel model of child maltreatment and found to significantly contribute to parents’ overall risk of physically abusing or neglecting their children, over and above the risk associated with parent and family level factors. Separate models for physical child abuse and child neglect are tested and compared, indicating that there are distinctive etiological models for different types of maltreatment. Lastly, methodological limitations of this study, implications for social work practice, and recommendations for further research are presented.