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Abstract

Objective: This article was developed to identify the variables associated with abuse of children in day care centers and homes, and to specify risk factors to guide professionals and parents.

Method: The literature regarding child abuse [physical (PA), sexual (SA), and ritual (RA)] was reviewed, with emphasis on identification of variables associated with victims, perpetrators, and settings. Three factors increased the complexity of the review: (1) Differences in definition and categorization complicated study comparison. (2) Emotional tone affected some reviewers' definitions, methodology, and conclusions. (3) Some aspects of child abuse in day care homes and centers have not been well researched.

Results: PA most frequently occurred in the form of over discipline, was a response to prior conflict with the child, and may have been inadvertently supported by parental permission for corporal punishment. Although SA occurred less frequently in centers than in homes, effects on the victim seemed worse in centers. SA often included PA. A Satanic overtone was frequently associated with RA, and RA coupled with SA was most devastating. Unfortunately, effects were not temporary. Males predominated the perpetrator profile. Multiple perpetrator abuse was worse (e.g., severity of intrusion). Failure of center staff to report suspicion of abuse by fellow staff or parents was cited as a worry by several researchers.

Conclusions: Although research regarding abuse in day care settings is sparse, one cannot wait for more or better research in order to identify risk factors. Based on literature reviewed, the authors provide risk factors for faculty, caregivers, parents, children, and professionals.