Journal of Family Violence

, Volume 19, Issue 5, pp 269–277 | Cite as

Elder Abuse by Caregivers: A Study of Prevalence and Risk Factors in Hong Kong Chinese Families

  • Elsie Chau-Wai Yan
  • Catherine So-Kum Tang


This study aimed to establish preliminary estimates and related risk factors for elder abuse among Hong Kong Chinese families. A total of 276 elder Chinese participated in the study, among which 27.5% reported having experienced at least one abusive behavior committed against them by their caregivers during the surveyed year. The most common form of abuse was verbal abuse (26.8%), whereas physical abuse (2.5%) and violation of personal rights (5.1%) were relatively less common. There was no gender difference in the prevalence of elder abuse. Overall and verbal abuse were best predicted by participants' poor visual and memory abilities, dependence on the caregivers, and caregivers' nondependence on them. Physical abuse was best predicted by caregivers' nondependence on the participants as well as participants' dependence on the caregivers. Participants' age was the only significant predictor for violation of personal rights. Results, limitations, and implications of the study were also discussed.

chinese elder abuse risk factors prevalence 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Baron, S., and Welty, A. (1996). Elder abuse. J. Gerontol. Soc. Work 15: 33–57.Google Scholar
  2. Bennet, G., and Kingston, P. (1993). Elder abuse: Concepts, theories and interventions, Chapman and Hall, London.Google Scholar
  3. Browning, J., and Dutton, D. (1986). Assessment of wife assault with the Conflicts Tactics Scale: Using couple data to quantify the differential reporting effect. J. Marriage Fam. 48: 375–379.Google Scholar
  4. Chan, H., and Lee, R. (1995). Hong Kong families: At the crossroads of modernism and traditionalism. J Comp. Fam. Stud. 26: 83–99.Google Scholar
  5. Chen, P. N., Bell, S. L., Dolinsky, D. L., Doyle, J., and Dunn, M. (1982). Elderly abuse in domestic settings: A pilot study. J. Gerontol. Soc. Work 4: 3–17.Google Scholar
  6. Decalmer, P., and Glendenning, F. (1993). The Mistreatment of Elderly People, Sage, London.Google Scholar
  7. Dowd, J. J. (1975). Aging as exchange: A preface to theory. J. Gerontol. 30: 584–594.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Eastman, M. (1984). Dependency or interdependency? Is the concept of “Dependency Abuse” helpful? In Eastman, M. (ed.), Old Age Abuse: A New Perspective, Chapman and Hall, London, pp. 67–76.Google Scholar
  9. Gailbraith, M. W. (1989). A critical examination of the definitional, methodological, and theoretical problems of elder abuse. In Fillinson, R., and Ingman, S. (eds.), Elder Abuse: Practice and Policy, Human Sciences Press, New York, pp. 35–42.Google Scholar
  10. Gelles, R. J. (1983). An exchange/social control theory. In Finkelhor, D., Gelles, R. J., Hotaling, G. T., and Straus, M. A. (eds.), The Dark Side of Families: Current Family Violence Research, Sage, Thousand Oaks, CA, pp. 151–165.Google Scholar
  11. Giordano, N. H., and Giordano, J. A. (1984). Elder abuse: A review of the literature. Soc. Work 29: 232–236.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Glendening, F. (1993). What is elder abuse and neglect? In Decalmer, P., and Glendening, F. (eds.), The Mistreatment of Elderly People, Sage, London, pp. 13–41.Google Scholar
  13. Harris, S. B. (1996). For better or worse: Spouse abuse grows old. J. Elder Abuse Negl. 8: 1–33.Google Scholar
  14. Homer, A. (1984). Prevalence and prevention of abuse. In Eastman, M. (ed.), Old Age Abuse: A New Perspective, Chapman and Hall, London, pp. 31–50.Google Scholar
  15. Howells, K., and Hollin, C. R. (1989). Clinical Approaches to Violence, Wiley, London.Google Scholar
  16. Jones, S. (2000). Understanding Violent Crime, Open University Press, Philadelphia.Google Scholar
  17. Korbin, J. E., Anetzberger, G. J., Thomasson, R., and Austin, C. (1991). Abused elders who seek legal recourse against their adult offspring: Findings from an exploratory study. J. Elder Abuse Negl. 3: 1–15.Google Scholar
  18. Kurrle, S. E., Sadler, P. M., and Cameron, I. (1992). Patterns of elder abuse. Med. J. Aust. 157: 673–675.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Lachs, M. S., Williams, C., O'Brien, S., Hurst, L., and Horwitz, R. (1997). Risk factors for reported elder abuse and neglect: A nine-year observational cohort study. The Gerontologist 37: 469–474.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Lau, E., and Kosberg, J. I. (1979). Abuse of the elderly by informal caregivers. Aging 2: 10–15.Google Scholar
  21. Murphy, C. M., Meyer, S. L., and O'Leary, K. D. (1994). Dependency characteristics of partner assaultive men. J. Abnorm. Psychol. 103: 729–735.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  22. National Center on Elder Abuse. (1998). The National Elder Abuse Incidence Study, Author, Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  23. Ninety-seven cases of elderly abuse reported still tip of an iceberg. (1999, November 12). Ming Pao Daily,p.A9.Google Scholar
  24. Ogg, J., and Munn-Giddings, C. (1993). Researching elder abuse. Ageing Soc. 13: 389–413.Google Scholar
  25. Ohlin, L., and Tonry, M. (1989). Family Violence, University of Chicago Press, Chicago.Google Scholar
  26. Pillemer, K. (1985). The dangers of dependency: New findings on do-mestic violence against the elderly. Soc. Probl. 33: 146–158.Google Scholar
  27. Pillemer, K., and Finkelhor, D. (1988). The prevalence of elder abuse: A random sample survey. Gerontol. Soc. Am. 28(1): 51–57.Google Scholar
  28. Pillemer, K., and Finkelhor, D. (1989). Causes of elder abuse: Caregiver stress versus problem relatives. Am. J. Orthopsychiatry 59: 179–187.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Pillemer, K., and Moore, D. (1989). Abuse of patients in nursing homes: Findings from a survey of staff. The Gerontologist 29: 314–320.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Pillemer, K., and Prescott, D. (1989). Psychological effects of elder abuse: A research note. J. Elder Abuse Negl. 1: 65–73.Google Scholar
  31. Pillemer, K. A., and Wolf, R. S. (1986). Elder Abuse: Conflict in the Family, Auburn House, Dover, MA.Google Scholar
  32. Pitsiou-Darrough, E. N., and Spinellis, C. D. (1995). Mistreatment of the elderly in Greece. In Kosberg, J. I., and Garcia, J. L. (eds.), Elder Abuse: International and Cross-Cultural Perspective,TheHaworth Press, New York, pp. 45–64.Google Scholar
  33. Pittaway, E., and Westhues, A. (1993). The prevalence of elder abuse and neglect of older adults who access health and social services in London, Ontario, Canada. J. Elder Abuse Negl. 5: 77–93.Google Scholar
  34. Podnieks, E. (1990). National Survey on Abuse of the Elderly in Canada: The Ryerson Study, Ryerson Polytechnical Institute, Toronto.Google Scholar
  35. Pritchard, J. (1992). The Abuse of Elderly People: A Handbook for Professionals, Jessica Kingsley, London.Google Scholar
  36. Quinn, M. J., and Tomita, S. K. (1986). Elder Abuse and Neglect, Springer, New York.Google Scholar
  37. Straus, M. A., Hamby, S. L., Boney-McCoy, S., and Sugarman, D. B. (1996). The Revised Conflict Tatics Scales (CTS 2). J. Fam. Issues 17: 283–316.Google Scholar
  38. Tang, C., Lee, A., and Cheung, F. (1999). Violence against women in Hong Kong. In Cheung, F. (ed.), Breaking the Silence: Violence Against Women in Asia, Equal Opportunities Commission, Hong Kong, pp. 38–58.Google Scholar
  39. Ten percent of elderly respondents suffered verbal abuse for no reason. (1999, December 21). Ming Pao Daily,p.A7.Google Scholar
  40. The American Medical Association. (1992). Diagnosis and Treatment Guidelines on Elder Abuse and Neglect, Author, Chicago.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elsie Chau-Wai Yan
    • 1
  • Catherine So-Kum Tang
    • 1
  1. 1.Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, People'sRepublic of China

Personalised recommendations