Risk and Protective Factors

A combination of individual, relational, community, and societal factors contribute to the risk of becoming a perpetrator of elder abuse. They are contributing factors and may or may not be direct causes. Understanding these factors can help identify various opportunities for prevention.

Watch Moving Forward to learn more about how increasing what protects people from violence and reducing what puts people at risk for it benefits everyone.

Risk Factors for Perpetration

Individual Risk Factors

  • Current diagnosis of mental illness
  • Current or past abuse of drugs or alcohol
  • Current physical health problem
  • Past experience of disruptive behavior
  • Past experience of traumatic events
  • High levels of stress
  • Poor or inadequate preparation or training for caregiving responsibilities
  • Inadequate coping skills
  • Exposure to or witnessing abuse as a child
  • Social isolation

Relationship Risk Factors

  • High financial and emotional dependence upon a vulnerable elder
  • Past family conflict
  • Inability to establish or maintain positive prosocial relationships
  • Lack of social support

Societal Risk Factors

There are specific characteristics of institutional settings such as nursing homes and residential facilities, that can increase the risk for perpetration including:

  • Staffing problems and lack of qualified staff
  • Staff burnout and stressful working conditions

Protective Factors for Elder Abuse

Protective factors reduce risk for perpetrating or experiencing abuse and neglect. Protective factors have not been studied as extensively as risk factors. However, identifying and understanding protective factors are equally as important as researching risk factors.

Protective Factors for Victimization

Individual Protective Factors

  • Emotional intelligence

Relationship Protective Factors

  • Having social support

Community Protective Factors

  • Sense of community, meaning, residents feel connected to each other and are involved in the community

See Elder Abuse Resources for more resources about elder abuse prevention.

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