Child abuse is primarily a problem within families.
While abuse by nonfamily members does occur, most victims are abused by one or more of their parents.
They incorporated research from the two surveys and additional chapters into the book Physical Violence in American Families: Risk Factors and Adaptations to Violence in 8,145 Families (1990).
Straus and Gelles therefore had a more intimate knowledge of the families and an awareness of incidences of child abuse that were not reported to authorities or community professionals.
Straus and Smith find that a combination of several factors is more likely to result in child abuse than is a single factor alone.
Also, the sum of the effects of individual factors taken together does not necessarily add up to what Straus and Smith call the "explosive combinations" of several factors interacting with one another.
Small stresses can have a cumulative effect and become explosive with a relatively minor event.
For potentially abusive parents, high levels of ongoing stress, coupled with inadequate coping strategies and limited resources, produce an extremely high-risk situation for children involved.