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|All Authors / Contributors:||Nick McRee|
Objective: Building upon prior research that reveals an elevated risk of abuse to children in blended households, the study considers whether risk of abuse varies by the type of non-related parent figure (i.e., stepparent, adoptive parent, or cohabiting adult) in residence. Method: A sample of 40,000 youths that sought services from runaway and homeless youth shelters in the US was examined. Holding constant the presence of a natural parent, the study evaluated the risk of abuse by the presence and type of an additional parent figure in the home. Results: Compared with other household types, an elevated risk of sexual and physical abuse was observed for youths from homes with a non-related parent figure in residence. Among youths from blended homes, the risk of abuse was not found to vary as a function of the type of non-related parent figure in the home. Conclusions: The study results are consistent with prior research that shows the presence of a non-related parent figure in a household is associated with a greater than expected risk of sexual or physical abuse to children. However, the findings suggest that the particular role or status of non-related parents may not be a meaningful risk factor when considering intervention strategies in suspected cases of abuse in blended households. The sample probably represents family conditions that are significantly worse for children than what would be found in the general population, and thus the results of this study should not be generalized to the population at large.
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