The co-occurrence of child and intimate partner maltreatment in the family: Characteristics of the violent perpetrators

Louise Dixon, C. Hamilton-Giachritsis, K. Browne, E. Ostapuik

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This study considers the characteristics associated with mothers and fathers who maltreat their child and each other in comparison to parents who only maltreat their child. One hundred and sixty-two parents who had allegations of child maltreatment made against them were considered. The sample consisted of 43 fathers (Paternal Family-PF) and 23 mothers (Maternal Family-MF) who perpetrated both partner and child maltreatment, together with 23 fathers (Paternal Child-PC) and 26 mothers (Maternal Child-MC) who perpetrated child maltreatment only. In addition, 2 fathers (Paternal Victim-PV) and 23 mothers (Maternal Victim-MV) were victims of intimate partner maltreatment and perpetrators of child maltreatment and 7 fathers (Paternal Non-abusive Carer-PNC) and 15 mothers (Maternal Non-abusive Carer-MNC) did not maltreat the child but lived with an individual who did. Within their family unit, 40.7% of parents perpetrated both intimate partner and child maltreatment. However, fathers were significantly more likely to maltreat both their partner and child than mothers and mothers were significantly more likely to be victims of intimate partner violence than fathers. PF fathers conducted the highest amount of physical and/or sexual child maltreatment while MC and MV mothers perpetrated the highest amount of child neglect. Few significant differences between mothers were found. PF fathers had significantly more factors associated with development of a criminogenic lifestyle than PC fathers. Marked sex differences were demonstrated with PF fathers demonstrating significantly more antisocial characteristics, less mental health problems and fewer feelings of isolation than MF mothers. MC mothers had significantly more childhood abuse, mental health problems, parenting risk factors and were significantly more likely to be biologically related to the child than PC fathers. This study suggests that violent families should be assessed and treated in a holistic manner, considering the effects of partner violence upon all family members, rather than exclusively intervening with the violent man.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)675-689
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Family Violence
Issue number8
Early online date14 Aug 2007
Publication statusPublished - 11 Sept 2007


  • co-occurrence
  • family violence
  • child maltreatment
  • intimate partner violence


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