Major theoretical models (main period)

Related theories

Point of dis-order

Examples of “risk” factors

Examples of empirical support

Implications for prevention science and practice

Psychiatric & psychological (1960s)

Medical; parental psychopathology; intergenerational transmission of child abuse; psychodynamic theories including attachment, social learning, behavioural and cognitive theories


Parental health characteristics including mental ill-health, family violence, alcohol-other drugs misuse; life crisis and stressors; parent-child role reversal

(Fairburn & Hunt, 1964; Ferguson, 1955; Fitch & Papantonio, 1983; Friedrich & Wheeler, 1982)

· Selective and indicative prevention programs

· Individualised adult psycho-therapeutics

· Family preservation services

· Home visitation

Child-initiated abuse (1960s)

Goodness-of-fit (child temperament and parent sensitivity— responsiveness); child behaviour including crying behaviour


Child-characteristics including younger age, misbehaviour, conduct and related issues, disabilities (special needs), difficult child temperament

(Ammerman, Van Hasselt, & Hersen, 1988; Chess & Thomas, 1991; Kapitanoff, Lutzker, & Bigelow, 2000; Milowe, Lourie, & Parrott, 1964; White, Benedict, Wulff, & Kelley, 1987)

· Parent education and training programmes

· Family support services

· Home visitation

· Child-focused family therapies

Sociological & environmental (1970s)

Social systems theory; culture, norms, traditions, and customs

Societal (situational/ contextual factors)

Poverty; social disadvantaged neighbourhoods; unemployment; social isolation; stressful and “toxic” social environments; lack of social support systems; cultural acceptance of violence against children

(Drake & Pandey, 1996; Garbarino, 1995; Gil, 1969; Slack, Holl, McDaniel, Yoo, & Bolger, 2004; Wolock, 1984)

· Social-justice approaches

· Systemic interventions

· Population-level approaches

· Community-based initiatives

· Mass media and social marketing approaches

· Economical and material support

Developmental-Ecological-transactional (1980s)

Developmental psychopathology; socioecological theory

Parent-child- society

Family and societal characteristics including multiple cumulative risk factors

(Asen, George, Piper, & Stevens, 1989; Belsky, 1993; Cicchetti & Lynch, 1993; Wulczyn et al., 2010)

· Public-health models and primary prevention

· Social policies and legislations

· Neighbourhood-based interventions

· Systems approach in child-protection intervention/prevention

Bio-psychosocio-cultural (since 1990s)

Multifactorial theories (including all the above)

Multiple risk factors (including all the above)

(Constantino, 2016; Korbin, Coulton, Lindstrom-Ufuti, & Spilsbury, 2000; Silva et al., 1998)

· Multi-agency and sectoral services

· Multidisciplinary collaborative approaches