Why does it happen?

There are three dominant themes within NZ Society which actively support the development and maintenance of abusive behaviour towards children. These also create barriers to the prevention of child abuse (Office of the Commissioner for Children, 1994).

A view of children as the property of parents

Parents having rights over children

A prevalence of attitudes including the active support of the rights of parents and nominated others to hit or assault children as part of a regime of physical punishment

Factors that consistently correlate with risk of child abuse and neglect include:

•          Unsatisfactory and unstable housing

•          Low socio-economic status

•          Low maternal age

•          Large family

•          Single parent family (MacMillan et al 1993)

Less obvious factors

•          Childhood experience of maltreatment

•          Spousal violence (Maxwell 1993)

•          Social isolation or lack of social support

•          Unplanned pregnancy (Zuravin 1991)

Additional risk factors include

•         Having a step parent or parent having a defacto partner

•         Having a child with a disability or chronic illness

•         Significant separation from the child in infancy – lack of bonding

•         Living in a family with an intergenerational history of abuse