Brief Child Abuse Potential Inventory Essay

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The Brief Child Abuse Potential Inventory (BCAP) is a 33-item measure of adult risk for maltreatment of a child. Perhaps the most important characteristic of the BCAP is that it measures risk factors associated with child maltreatment, such as emotional distress, rigidity, and social isolation, rather than asking about abusive behaviors directly. This makes it less vulnerable to socially desirable responding, and more acceptable in a variety of settings. The BCAP was developed by Steven J. Ondersma, Mark Chaffin, Sharon Mullins, and James Le-Breton in 2005 to address the need for a shorter, simplified version of the 160-item Child Abuse Potential Inventory (CAP). All BCAP items are drawn from the CAP.

The BCAP was created using a development sample of n = 1470, and was cross-validated using an additional sample of n = 713. Items were selected to maximize (a) CAP variance accounted for; (b) prediction of future child protective services reports; (c) item invariance across gender, age, and ethnicity; (d) factor stability; and (e) readability and acceptability. The final measure included 33 items, 24 of which constituted the abuse risk scale and 9 of which constituted the validity scale (6 lie scale items and 3 random response items). On cross-validation, scores from the 24-item risk scale demonstrated an internal consistency estimate of .89, a stable 7-factor structure, and substantial correlations with the CAP abuse risk score (r = .96). The CAP risk cut-off was predicted with 93% sensitivity and 93% specificity (area under the ROC curve = .98), and the BCAP and CAP demonstrated similar patterns of external correlates.

Subsequent examination of the BCAP, utilizing a case-control design in an urban setting, has found further support for the validity of the risk scale: preliminary analyses indicate that the BCAP risk scale accurately discriminated 72.5% of a sample of at-risk (n = 100) and control (n = 100) parents. Of note, the BCAP risk scale discriminated better when applied to all protocols, rather than just to those who provided “valid” protocols according to the BCAP lie and random responding scale. More research regarding the validity and utility of these scales is needed.

The CAP is a copyrighted and proprietary measure; the BCAP is thus not available for separate purchase and cannot be disseminated independently. Those wishing to use the BCAP should purchase copies from Psytec of the full version of the CAP equivalent to the number of brief versions they would like to administer.


  1. DeKalb, IL: Psytec. Ondersma, S. J., Chaffin, M., Mullins, S. M., & LeBreton, J. M. (2005). The Brief Child Abuse Potential Inventory: Development and validation. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 34, 301–311.
  2. Milner, J. S. (1986). The Child Abuse Potential Inventory manual (2nd ed.).

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