Preventing neglect and promoting child well-being among children in high-risk environments




Sattler, Kierra Marie Pettit

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Many children come into contact with child protective services (CPS) each year, with the majority of these cases due to neglect. Poverty is consistently one of the strongest predictors of neglect, but the majority of families in poverty do not neglect their children. Therefore, a family’s poverty status is not a sufficient predictor of whether neglect will occur. While there exists some evidence about the intersecting environments of poverty and neglect, there remain several important unanswered questions within the child welfare literature. First, it is important to know which families in poverty are most vulnerable to engaging in neglect given the heterogeneity of families living below or near the poverty line. Second, we need to understand how different resources can decrease neglect among the general population and which resources are particularly beneficial for different depths of poverty. Third, it is essential to explore how exposure to different environments, namely early care and education, might compensate for contact with CPS and for different types of neglect. Each study of this dissertation addresses one of these gaps in the literature using data from The Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study and from the National Survey of Child and Adolescent Well-Being II. Study 1 illustrates the fact that risk factors co-occur to create four different risk profiles across early childhood, and that these risk profiles differentially relate to later neglect and involvement in CPS. Study 2 demonstrates that social support and maternal employment are related to less neglect, but that the associations between different protective factors and neglect vary across different levels of poverty. Study 3 provides evidence that ECE is beneficial for children involved in CPS but who remain in their homes, and that ECE is particularly helpful for children who experience different types of neglect. Overall, the three studies of this dissertation together provide a nuanced understanding of the intersection between poverty and neglect and offer new evidence about which families are most vulnerable to engaging in neglect, about what ways are promising for preventing neglect, and about which potential resources promote child well-being among children involved in CPS


LCSH Subject Headings