The purpose of the study reported here was to assess the validity of a multi-causal view of child abuse as it is manifested in children's institutions. The analytical model utilized underlines the powerful role that norms play in creating differential predispositions to violence, that pressures and structural position play in creating differential chances of violence among people with different predispositions and that a sense of injustice plays as a dynamic through which violence is generated.

This ex post facto study utilized role playing techniques to examine voluntary harm doing in a purposive sample of 100 direct caregivers in 42 living units in 15 children's homes for the dependent, neglected and disturbed. The dependent variable was level of justified force. Data was collected on 20 background and organizational variables.

Several variables were moderately associated with level of force. More force was espoused when respondents were older, had less education, were married, had "live in" schedules, were reared in smaller towns, had less participation in decision making, worked where residents were managed in more organization centered ways and experienced higher amounts of felt injustice.

A larger structure of understanding was developed by determining how strong the association was between all of the variables taken together and level of force. A multiple correlation of .63 was obtained at the .01 level of significance.

Some implications for preventing and managing the use of force by caregivers are suggested.

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