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Association of maternal risk factors with infant maltreatment: an administrative data cohort study


Objective — We aimed to evaluate the risk of infant maltreatment associated with commonly used criteria for home visiting programmes: young maternal age, maternal adversity (homelessness, substance abuse, intimate partner violence), newcomer status and mental health concerns in Ontario, Canada.

Design — This retrospective cohort study included infants born in hospital in Ontario from 1 April 2005 to 31 March 2017 captured in linked health administrative and demographic databases. Infants were followed from newborn hospitalisation until 1 year of age for child maltreatment captured in healthcare or death records. The association between type and number of maternal risk factors, and maltreatment, was analysed using multivariable logistic regression modelling, controlling for infant characteristics and material deprivation. Further modelling explored the association of each year of maternal age with maltreatment.

Results — Of 989 586 infants, 434 (0.04%) had recorded maltreatment. Maternal age <22 years conferred higher risk of infant maltreatment (adjusted OR (aOR) 5.5, 95% CI 4.5 to 6.8) compared with age ≥22 years. Maternal mental health diagnoses (aOR 2.0, 95% CI 1.6 to 2.5) were also associated with maltreatment, while refugee status appeared protective (aOR 0.6, 95% CI 0.4 to 1.0). The odds of maltreatment increased with higher numbers of maternal risk factors. Maternal age was associated with maltreatment until age 28 years.

Conclusion — Infants born to young mothers are at greater risk of infant maltreatment, and this association remained until age 28 years. These findings are important for ensuring public health interventions are supporting populations experiencing structural vulnerabilities with the aim of preventing maltreatment.



Smith JN, Guttmann A, Kopp A, Vandermorris A, Shouldice M, Harron KL. Arch Dis Child. 2023; Sep 27 [Epub ahead of print].

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