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Fertility patterns: their relationships to child physical abuse and child neglect

Fertility patterns: their relationships to child physical abuse and child neglect

Journal of marriage and the family 50(4): 983-993

Even though family planning is frequently mentioned as an important strategy for preventing child maltreatment, the fertility patterns of abusing and neglecting families have attracted little research attention. This study focuses on filling some gaps in existing knowledge by separately examining relationships between two types of maltreatment, physical abuse and neglect, and five fertility patterns--family size, family spacing, mother's age at first birth, number of sires, and family planning status of children. The data were collected during personal interviews with 518 urban, single parents who were recipients of Aid to Families of Dependent Children (AFDC). The 237 maltreating mothers were selected from families receiving child protective services. Findings from multivariate analyses suggest three overall conclusions: (a) both types of maltreatment are associated with fertility patterns independent of demographic characteristics; (b) neglect appears to be more strongly associated with the fertility variables than abuse; and (c) the two types of maltreatment display both similarities and differences relative to their relationships with the patterns. Implications for existing knowledge as well as recommendations for further research are discussed.

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