Neighbourhood collective efficacy and protective effects on child maltreatment: A systematic literature review

Alhassan Abdullah, Clifton R. Emery, Lucy P. Jordan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Research within the community-based child protection approach has used the neighbourhood collective efficacy theory of social disorganisation to focus on investigating the social conditions and processes that facilitate residents’ ability to intervene or protect children from parental maltreatment. However, much of the research into the protective effects of neighbourhood collective efficacy on child maltreatment has yielded mixed results. In a review of empirical studies published between 2008 and 2019, we investigated the sources of these mixed findings and the pathways through which neighbourhood collective efficacy could protect children from parental maltreatment. Following the PRISMA guidelines for systematic literature reviews yielded 21 empirical research articles on the subject that were critically examined in line with the theoretical underpinning and research questions. Evidence suggests both direct and sequential pathways in which increased social cohesion and informal social control (ISC) protect against parents’ maltreatment behaviours. Higher levels of neighbourhood social cohesion were found to be a potential primary preventive strategy against risk factors for maltreatment. The use of ISC measures from the traditional collective efficacy scale account for the mixed findings and limited research on the direct and indirect forms of ISC. Moreover, the transactional processes posited by collective efficacy theory that link neighbourhood social cohesion to ISC have yet to be examined and confirmed with respect to child maltreatment. Studies addressing these theoretical and methodological gaps are encouraged, in particular, studies examining ISC dimensions using item measures of specific residents’ actions within child maltreatment behaviours. The results provide implications for community-based child protection practice, in terms of promoting cultural norms and values that foster social cohesion and facilitate ISC interventions within neighbourhoods.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1863-1883
Number of pages21
JournalHealth and Social Care in the Community
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Child maltreatment
  • collective efficacy
  • community-based child protection
  • informal social control
  • social cohesion
  • social ties
  • systematic review


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