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There is no one reason that causes child abuse. According to the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies, “Often multiple social factors combine to create the need for Children’s Aid to be involved with a child or family. Sometimes parents need help with parenting skills. Other times, families contact Children’s Aid directly to get help with circumstances that are beyond their control relating to their children.”

Contributing factors identified on the Association’s website include:

Mental Health

According to estimates, one in five people experience a mental health problem. Mental illness affects people of all ages, education, income levels, and cultures. Mental illness is characterized by alterations in thinking, mood or behavior associated with significant distress and impaired functioning.

The Association’s website explains, “Mental illness, in some cases, can challenge caregivers’ abilities to provide adequate care or a safe home to children and youth. Twenty-seven percent of substantiated child maltreatment investigations in Canada reported that the primary caregiver had mental health issues.”


Unemployment, financial challenges and the high cost of living contribute to stress in households, making it hard to provide for a family's basic needs. Poverty-related stressors can challenge parents’ abilities to care for their children. The website notes: “While poverty on its own does not result in child abuse and neglect, research clearly identifies a link between poverty and child abuse, mental health issues and woman abuse. Twenty-seven percent of substantiated neglect investigations in Canada noted that the household regularly ran out of money for basic necessities such as food, clothing and housing.”

Substance Abuse

Drug addiction and alcohol abuse are detrimental to a person’s well being. Addiction can cause parents to neglect, abuse and endanger their children. The Association’s website states: “In 38 percent of substantiated child maltreatment investigations the primary caregiver had alcohol or drug/solvent abuse issues.” In addition, the website notes the addiction often co-occurs with mental health, increasing the risk of neglect or abuse among children in these households.

Prior Abuse

Parents who abuse their children were often abused themselves as children.

Community Resources

In many cases, the needs of families, including the need to address poverty, mental illness, addiction or other factors go unmet and problems soon reach crisis levels. Early intervention for parents and families can help prevent abuse.

To learn more, read the entire article online


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