Journal of Family Violence

, Volume 25, Issue 2, pp 215–227 | Cite as

A Critical Review of the Psychometric Evidence Base of the Child Abuse Potential Inventory

  • Clare A. WalkerEmail author
  • Jason Davies
Original Article


Screening for potential child abuse is an essential component of work in many child and family services. The Child Abuse Potential inventory (CAP; Milner 1986) is one measure developed to help in this task. The primary aim of this review is to critically evaluate studies reporting psychometric information of the CAP. A previous paper by Milner (Clinical Psychology Review 14(6): 547–583 1994) reviewed studies evaluating the psychometric properties of the measure up to 1994. Since then over 100 articles have been published that consider the measurement properties of this tool. This review considers 27 papers published since Milner’s (Clinical Psychology Review 14(6): 547–583 1994) review that clarify previous findings in relation to specific psychometric properties of the CAP. In particular, this review focuses on studies that provide information on the cross-cultural validity of the CAP, on the internal consistency of the CAP measure as a whole and its subscales, or on sensitivity and specificity classification rates. Studies providing information on the differential validity of the CAP (using at least two differentiated sample groups) or the efficacy of the CAP to identify change are also considered. Published evidence suggests that the CAP can help assess for a range of difficulties associated with increased risk for physical child abuse. The CAP scales have shown good internal consistency estimates across sample groups and cultures, with similar underlying themes for CAP factors reported for the different cultures studied. The differential validity of the CAP has also been shown, although sensitivity and specificity classification rates have varied. The CAP appears able to indicate some degree of pre—to post-intervention change, although further investigation is required to clarify what changes in CAP scores actually reflect. Further investigation of this measure in other countries is also required.


Physical child abuse Parenting Psychometric Risk assessment 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Bassetlaw Early Intervention and Assertive Outreach TeamsNottinghamshire Healthcare NHS TrustNottinghamshireUK
  2. 2.Intensive Support and Intervention Service, Cefn Coed HospitalAbertawe Bro Morgannwg University NHS TrustSwanseaUK
  3. 3.Clinical Psychology Unit, Psychology Department, Western BankUniversity of SheffieldSheffieldUK

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