Professor Daryl Higgins, Gabrielle Hunt


Commissioned by Respect Victoria, partnering with Australian Institute of Family Studies


To understand the factors that drive child maltreatment.

Project details

Respect Victoria commissioned a substantive body of evidence reviews from a wide range of experts to help understand what we know - and don't know - about the prevalence, nature, drivers, and risk factors of different forms of violence against women, family and gendered violence.

The Institute of Child Protection Studies focused on researching a range of factors - environmental, structural, parental and child-risk elements - that drive child maltreatment. We produced two documents:

The research, based on international literature and the Australian Child Maltreatment Study, indicates that there is no one driver or risk factor for child maltreatment victimisation and perpetration of child abuse. Rather, it is a complex interplay between a large variety of child, parent, and contextual factors.

The research summary lists six main macro systems and structures that underpin perpetration of child maltreatment, related to:

  • socio-economic disadvantage
  • gendered drivers of violence
  • condoning of violence
  • colonisation and discrimination against Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families
  • heteronormativity, cisnormativity, homo-, bi- and trans-phobia and consequent gendered sex-role stereotyping
  • natural disasters, war and conflict.

Research also found that the main factors that underpin child maltreatment include:

  • poor parenting skills
  • parental substance abuse
  • children exposed to and experiencing intimate partner violence
  • parental history of childhood maltreatment.

Projected community impact

We hope that this knowledge will inform legal and justice settings where primary prevention approaches should be tested and implemented. Families experiencing structural discrimination are more likely to come into contact with youth justice, corrections, police, courts and legal services which would benefit from more adequate attention and resources.


Visit the Summarising the evidence project page for more information about the scope of the project.


Higgins, D. J., & Hunt, G. R. (2023). Child, parent and contextual factors associated with child protection system involvement and child maltreatment in the family: A rapid evidence review. Australian Journal of Social Issues, 147.


For further information contact Daryl Higgins

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