Adolescent physical abuse: Predictive factors

Aliza Septimus-Berger, Pace University


Using a developmental-ecological model of physical abuse, this study examined whether three sets (i.e. individual characteristics, family functioning and social characteristics) predict abuse and what variables within each set predict abuse. An unselected sample of 99 physically abused adolescents and their mothers, and 99 control comparison dyads matched for age, race, gender, and socioeconomic status, served as subjects. Data was gathered through semi-structured interviews and self-report questionnaires. Results of 6 differently ordered setwise logistic regression models indicated that all 3 sets significantly predicted abuse. The individual set made a significant contribution to the prediction of abuse above and beyond the predictive power of the combined family and social sets. The family set also made a significant additional contribution to abuse above and beyond the combined predictive power of the individual and social sets. The social set made no significant additional contribution to abuse above and beyond the predictive power of the combined family and individual sets. Within the individual set, results indicated that presence of maternal mood disorders, adolescent mood disorders and adolescent disruptive behavior disorders were significant predictors of abuse. Within the family set, extreme levels of marital conflict and family cohesion were significant predictors of abuse. Within the social set, both the number of different stressful life events and the degree of social isolation were significant predictors of adolescent physical abuse. Examination of variables from all three sets combined indicated that adolescents who have a disruptive behavior disorder are 6 times more likely to be physically abused than comparison adolescents who do not have a disruptive behavior disorder. Other significant predictive variables indicate that families with extreme levels of family cohesion are 4 times more likely to be abusive. Families with adolescent and maternal mood disorders are 3 times as likely to be abusive, and families that have greater number of life events and marital conflict are more likely to have adolescents who are physically abused. Results of this study are useful in helping mental health practitioners identify and treat abusive families.

Subject Area

Psychotherapy|Social psychology|Criminology|Families & family life|Personal relationships|Sociology

Recommended Citation

Septimus-Berger, Aliza, "Adolescent physical abuse: Predictive factors" (1998). ETD Collection for Pace University. AAI9840157.



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