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Predicting chronic neglect: Understanding risk and protective factors for CPS‐involved families


Child & Family Social Work

Published online on


Child neglect continues to receive less attention in research literature compared to other forms of maltreatment, despite accumulating evidence of serious negative impacts on child well‐being. Chronic neglect is also poorly understood. Although such cases comprise a relatively small percentage of workers' caseloads, they represent accumulation of harm that impacts the cognitive and social development of children. These cases can also disproportionately utilize protective service resources. This study contributes to the literature by examining risk and protective factors of chronic neglect. We utilized administrative data (N = 2,074) from a midsize city in the Northeast to examine the use of existing risk assessment tools to distinguish families with and without chronic neglect, including an analysis of the predictive capacity of risk and protective factors. We found that families with chronic neglect were younger, had more children, were more likely to have children under age one, and had higher rates of domestic violence, mental health problems, and cognitive impairment. None of the assessed protective factors differed significantly. The overall predictive value of the assessment was low. Implications include the need to expand risk assessment tools to incorporate patterns over time and identify early indicators specific to chronic neglect.