Psychology, Department of


Date of this Version

April 1999


Published (as Chapter 16) in Handbook of Psychological Approaches with Violent Offenders: Contemporary Strategies and Issues, edited by Vincent B. Van Hasselt and Michel Hersen. Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers, New York, 1999. Pages 329–356. Copyright © 1999 Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers/Springer Verlag. Used by permission.


Children ideally develop and learn about their world from the safe and stimulating environment of their home. Therefore, it is quite disturbing when violence occurs within the supposedly protective domains of the home and the parent-child relationship, although such acts have been committed throughout history (Zigler & Hall, 1989). Even though acts of child maltreatment have a long history, the concept that society should be responsible for the protection of children, including identification, reporting, and treatment of both the victims and perpetrators of maltreatment, is a relatively recent development.

This chapter addresses the physical abuse and neglect of children by their parents. The problems of child physical abuse and neglect are described, including historical and epidemiological information and the characteristics of maltreating parents and families. A discussion of assessment methods as they apply to case conceptualization and treatment is provided. The basis for any well-planned treatment lies in a thorough assessment, and this is particularly true for the complex problem of child maltreatment. Interventions to address the needs of abusive and neglectful parents and prevent the recurrence of maltreatment are also described. In addition, issues in the clinical management of the problems and treatment of these challenging families are discussed.