Child abuse is a generalized term for broad range of actions that result in "physical, sexual, emotional mistreatment, or neglect of a child." Because of the wide variety of types of actions that may be interpreted as being child abuse, there are many factors that may contribute to causing such abuse.
Adults who have experienced unhealthy or abusive relationships in their past are more likely to abuse children. This could mean physical abuse because the adult considers it to be acceptable, based on his/her past experience; it could mean neglect or endangerment of a child as a result of inadequate understanding of the demands of responsible guardianship; it could mean sexual abuse stemming from inappropriate patterns or expectations of interactions between individuals. Children who were unplanned are more frequently the targets of abuse than are those who were planned and wanted. Children in blended family situations are at greater risk of being abused by the step-parent than by a biological parent.
Substance abuse is frequently exhibited by adults who are child abusers. Not only do abusers of illegal substances, in particular alcohol, cocaine and heroin, exhibit a higher likelihoon of abusing their children; they also are frequently more resistant to participating in programs designed to help with abusive behaviors.
Financial difficulties, including unemployment, are another frequent factor in contributing to child abuse. There have been increased numbers of child abuse cases documented during the economic difficulties of the past few years.
These factors, alone or in combinations that could cover an infinite number of situations, are often present when uncovering the causes of child abuse.