Child Abuse Potential Inventory (CAPI)

Assessment Rating:
A – Psychometrics Well-Demonstrated
See entire scale

Joel S. Milner, PhD

Description / Purpose:

The CAPI screens for the detection of physical child abuse in parents or primary caregivers.

Note: The CAPI developers were not responsive to the CEBC's inquiry. The following information was obtained from publicly available sources.

The CAPI is a screening tool for the detection of physical child abuse to be used by protective services workers in their investigations of reported child abuse cases. This 160-item self-report screening instrument is given to the parent or caregiver who is suspected of abuse. The primary clinical scale (Abuse) can be divided into six factor scales: Distress, Rigidity, Unhappiness, Problems With Child and Self, Problems With Family, and Problems With Others.

Target Population: Parents or primary caregivers of children

Time to Administer: Approximately 12 to 20 minutes

Completed By: Parents or caregivers

Modalities Available: Paper and pencil; a computer-based scoring system is available.

Scoring Information: Scoring information can be obtained through the publisher.

Languages Available: Croatian, English, Greek, Spanish — the rating for the measure is based solely on the English version of the measure.

Training Requirements for Intended Users: A four-year degree in Psychology, Counseling, or a related field, including completed coursework in psychological testing and measurement, or equivalent certification.

Availability: The CAP Inventory and accompanying manual and scoring materials may be purchased through PAR, Inc., at their website.

Contact Information

Company: PAR, Inc.
Phone: (800) 331-8378
Fax: (800) 727-9329

Summary of Relevant Psychometric Research

This tool has received the Measurement Tools Rating of "A – Psychometrics Well-Demonstrated" based on the published, peer-reviewed research available. The tool must have 2 or more published, peer-reviewed studies that have established the measure’s psychometrics (e.g., reliability and validity, sensitivity and specificity, etc.). Please see the Measurement Tools Rating Scale for more information.

Show relevant research...

Milner, J. S., & Wimberley, R. C. (1979). An inventory for the identification of child abusers. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 35(1), 95-100.


Participants — 38 parents. Abusive parents were referred from departments of social service in rural North Carolina.

Race/Ethnicity — Not Specified


This study describes the development of the preliminary version of the CAP Inventory, using items constructed from traits of abusive and neglectful parents extracted from the literature on child abuse. The CAP Inventory was administered to 19 abusing and 19 non-abusing matched parents. Analysis found that the items clustered into four factors: Loneliness; rigidity; problems with self, family, friends, etc.; and lack of social and self control. All four factors showed differences between scores for abusing and non-abusing parents, but only the differences for rigidity and problems were statistically significant. These findings were used to construct a revised scale including the factors of rigidity, problems, and control only.

Milner, J. B., & Wimberley, R. C. (1980). Prediction and explanation of child abuse. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 36(4), 875-884.


Participants — 130 parents obtained from social services agencies in North Carolina and 76 parents from a medical center in Tulsa, OK.

Race/Ethnicity — 83% White and 17% other


Abusing and non-abusing parents were matched on residence, gender, age, ethnic background, education, marital status, and number, age, and gender of children. Child care workers administered the CAP Inventory individually to parents. Analysis showed good levels of internal reliability based on split-half and test-retest statistics. Results also showed that a subset of 77 items correctly identified 96% of abusing parents. Item factors most successfully discriminating were those associated with distress, rigidity, and unhappiness.

Milner, J. S., & Ayoub, C. (1980). Evaluation of "at risk" parents using the Child Abuse Potential Inventory. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 36(4), 945-948.


Participants — 67 parents from At Risk Parent Child Program, Inc. in Tulsa, OK.

Race/Ethnicity — 73% White and 27% other


Parents participating in a program for families at risk for child abuse were administered the CAP Inventory. Screening factors determining risk included infants with health problems, history of past abuse, parental substance abuse, and poor social and economic situation. Analysis showed that parents in the at-risk group scored significantly higher on the CAP Inventory than the norm group. However, the authors caution that the screening measures used in this study employed a very extensive list of risk factors and suggest combining screening with use of the CAP Inventory to identify parents at risk for later abuse.

Milner, J. S., Gold, R. S., Ayoub, C., & Jacewitz, M. M. (1984). Predictive validity of the Child Abuse Potential Inventory. Journal of Counseling and Clinical Psychology, 52(5), 879-884.


Participants — 200 parents from the At Risk Parent Child Program, Inc. in Tulsa, OK.

Race/Ethnicity — 69% White


Participating parents had been screened as at-risk for child abuse or neglect. Most screening was done in a hospital setting while children were younger than 6 months. The final sample included those parents who were concluded to be at risk for abuse. Data on subsequent reports of abuse, neglect, or failure to thrive were also obtained. Analyses showed that CAP Inventory score was significantly correlated with subsequent abuse and that 100% of parents later reported for abuse had scores above the cutoff score for abuse potential. The authors note that interpretation of this result is limited by the lack of a comparison group for this study.

Robertson, K. R., & Milner, J. S. (1985). Convergent and discriminant validity of the Child Abuse Potential Inventory. Journal of Personality Assessment, 49(1), 86-88.


Participants — 120 undergraduate students, 17 to 31 years old

Race/Ethnicity — Not Specified


Participants' scores on the CAP Inventory were compared to their scores on the Sixteen Personality Factor (16PF) questionnaire. Participants were eliminated if the data was incomplete, or if they had elevated scores on those scale items designed to detect false answers. High scores on the CAP Inventory were positively correlated with apprehension, tension, and anxiety, and negatively correlated with stability. No correlations were found with other factors on the 16PF. This finding suggests moderate convergent validity and divergent validity for the CAP Inventory. This study is limited, however, by the use of a normal, childless sample.

Milner, J. S., Gold, R. G., & Wimberley, R. C. (1986). Prediction and explanation of child abuse: Cross validation of the Child Abuse Potential Inventory. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 54(6), 865-866.


Participants — 122 active, untreated child abusing parents obtained from social service programs, including the At Risk Parent Child Program in Tulsa, OK., and a matched control group of 110 parents.

Race/Ethnicity — 67% Caucasian, 23% African American, and 10% Hispanic, American Indian, or other.


Abusive parents were matched on age, ethnic background, and state of residence with control parents receiving agency assistance but not known to be abusers. All participants completed the CAP Inventory. Groups differed significantly on 64 of the 77 items on the scale and scores successfully predicted 96.3% of control and 89.2% of abusive parents. The scale predicted abuse in 95.5% of those with adjudicated cases of abuse, which rose to 100% when questionable scales were eliminated based on items designed to detect lying.

Milner, J. S. (1989). Additional cross-validation of the Child Abuse Potential Inventory. Psychological Assessment: A Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 1(3), 219-223.


Participants — 61 identified untreated abusers from the Rainbow Learning Center abuse treatment program, 117 general-population parents, and 64 nurturing parents from the Tampa, FL area.

Race/Ethnicity — Abusers: 40.9% Black, 54.2% White, 3.3% Hispanic, and 1.6% Other; Comparison: 3.4% Black, 95.8% White, 0.8% Hispanic, and 0.0% Other; Nurturing: 3.1% Black, 93.8% White, 0.0% Hispanic, and 3.1% Other.


Abusive participants were obtained as they entered the treatment program. General population and nurturing parents were obtained through contacts and nominations by the Rainbow Center staff and other community professionals. All participants completed the CAP Inventory. Results showed that CAP Inventory scores identified 81.4% of abusive parents and 99.0% of the comparison parents. When an alternative scoring procedure that tracks items designed to detect lying was used, classification rates improved. Under both scoring procedures, all nurturing parents were correctly classified.

Chaffin, M., & Valle, L. A. (2003). Dynamic prediction characteristics of the Child Abuse Prevention Inventory. Child Abuse and Neglect, 27, 463-481.


Participants — 459 parents in community family support and preservation programs.

Race/Ethnicity — 45% White, 33% Native American, 10% Hispanic, 9% African American, and 2% Asian.


Study participants completed the CAP Inventory and a subset repeated the questionnaire after two weeks as an assessment of test-retest reliability. Data was collected on future referrals for child abuse or neglect through the state child protective services (CPS) system. Test-retest reliability scores were high. Initial scores on the CAP Inventory predicted the likelihood of further abuse and support its use as a pre-treatment screening instrument. However, changes in CAP Inventory scores over the course of the treatment program did not reflect future risk of abuse.

Odersma, S. J., Chaffin, M. J., Mullins, S. M., & LeBreton, J. M. (2005). A brief form of the Child Abuse Potential Inventory: Development and validation. Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology, 34(2), 301-311.


Participants — 1,470 parents constituting a validation sample, combined with a cross-validation sample of 713. All were at-risk parents enrolled in child abuse prevention or treatment programs in Oklahoma.

Race/Ethnicity — Averaged across samples: 50.9% White, 19.1% Native American, 12.0% African American, and 5.3% Hispanic.


Note: This study evaluates an adaptation of the assessment studied in other research. The brief CAP Inventory is designed to simplify questionnaire completion and scoring and to be inclusive of respondents who do not yet have children. A brief version was designed by evaluating the relative importance of each item in the overall CAP Inventory score. The full CAP Inventory was administered to participants and data on CPS reports for participants were collected. The brief version of the CAP Inventory was administered to the cross-validation sample. Results showed that the brief CAP Inventory showed high internal reliability and correlation with the full CAP Inventory abuse risk score.

Date Reviewed: February 2015 (Originally reviewed in June 2009)