Dose–Response Relationship Between Protective Family Informal Social Control and Chronic Child Neglect: Does Household Size Matter?

Alhassan Abdullah, Clifton R. Emery

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Larger households, involving more children, are theorized as potential risk factors for child maltreatment—resource dilution theory. But qualitative evidence shows that in collective societies, like Ghana, more adult family members may act against neglect, through protective informal social control, which helps to reduce the frequency of neglect. Family members intervention in neglect situations will be more consistent and sustained due to the sanctioned collective responsibility to care for children in the community. The purpose of this study is to test the hypothesis that having more adult family members in the household, who have the will and agency to intervene, will predict less chronic neglect. A three-stage probability proportional to size cluster sample of Ghana was collected from 1,100 primary caregiving mothers. One mother was interviewed in each household, and responses were limited to one focal child. When sample was restricted to those with chronic neglect (neglect > 1), 596 mothers remained in the data. The children have experienced 11 times neglect in the past year, and lived in households with average size of 6 members. Chronic neglect was measured using the Conflict Tactics Scale. Dose–response protective informal social control by family members was measured using the newly developed context-based scale for measuring protective informal social control of child neglect (ISC_CM2). Results from the random effects regressions models showed a negative relationship between dose–response protective informal social control and chronic neglect, and the interaction with household size was negative and significant. Ghanaian families should be sensitized to take advantage of the communal living practices, extended family systems and compound housing structures, as traditional mechanisms to promote collectivity and interventions in observed acts of neglect to protect children. The evidence contradicts the resource dilution theory’s conceptualization of large household as risks factors of neglect.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages26
JournalJournal of Interpersonal Violence
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 26 Sep 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Child neglect
  • chronic neglect
  • dose–response informal social control
  • informal social control of neglect
  • ISC_CM2


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