Families of premature and ill newborns admitted to a regional newborn intensive care unit were studied prospectively to assess the incidence of reported child abuse and neglect. Of the 255 infants discharged to their parents, ten were subseqtiently reported as victims of maltreatment during the first year of life. The high incidence of maltreatment (3.9%) in these Prelnatttre and ill newborns supports the findings of retrospective studies that there is an increased risk of maltreatment in these special infants. Thirteen family psychosocial characteristics, assessed by admission interview, showed significant association with later maltreatment. These family characteristics included social isolation, a family history of child abuse and neglect, serious marital problems, inadequate child care arrangements, apathetic and dependent personality styles, and inadequate child spacing. Maltreated infants were less mature at birth and had more congenital defects than their nursery mates. There was also less family-infant contact during the prolonged nursery hospitalization in families in which maltreatment eventually occurred.

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