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CAPI - Child Abuse Potential Inventory

The CAP Inventory is a caretaker-report measure developed to estimate the risk of a parent physically abusing a child. The test consists of 160 questions with a total of 10 standard scales and 2 special scales (added to the measure in 1990). The 10 standard scales include a 77-item Child Abuse Scale and 3 validity scales.

There have been multiple studies that have shown that a mother’s score on the CAP inventory is predictive of the child’s long-term intelligence, socioemotional outcome and development as well as future behavior by the parent.




Milner, Joel, Ph.D.

Milner, J. (1986). The Child Abuse Potential Inventory Manual, DeKalb, IL: Psytec Inc. Milner, J. (1990). An Interpretive Manual for The Child Abuse Potential Inventory, Dekalb, IL: Psytec Inc.

Contact Information: 
Cost Involved
Domain Assessed: 
Externalizing Symptoms
Services and Systems
Subcategories of Domains Assessed: 
Anxiety/Mood (Anxiety Symptoms and Mood Disorder and Symptoms), Parenting (Style), Relationships & Attachment (Parent/Child Relationships)
Age Range: 
Measure Type: 
Measure Format: 


Number of Items: 
Average Time to Complete (min): 
Reporter Type: 
Average Time to Score (min): 
Response Format: 

Agree or Disagree

Materials Needed: 
Sample Items: 
DomainsScaleSample Items
Mood and Anxiety SymptomsDistressNot available
RigidityNot available
UnhappinessNot available
Ego StrengthNot available
LonlinessNot available
onal ProblemsProblems with Child and SelfNot available
Problems with FamilyNot available
Information Provided: 
Areas of Concern/Risks
Continuous Assessment
Program Evaluation Information
Raw Scores


Training to Administer: 
Training by Experienced Clinician (less than 4 hours)
Training to Interpret: 
Training by Experienced Clinician (4+ hours)
Prior Experience in Psych Testing/Interpretation

Parallel or Alternate Forms

Parallel Forms: 
Alternate Forms: 
Different Age Forms: 
Altered Version Forms: 


Clinical Cutoffs: 
Clinical Cutoffs Description: 

166, but 215 is the recommended “conservative” cutoff score, so as to have fewer false positives.

Test-Retest: # days- 1Acceptable Correlation0.640.940.91
Internal ConsistencyAcceptableSplit Half0.960.980.97
Parallel/Alternate Forms
References for Reliability: 

he above 1-day test-retest reliabilities are for the abuse scale, control sample only. At the 1-week test-retest: Min=.89, Max=.94, Avg=.90 At the 1-month test-retest: Min=.81, Max=.91, Avg=.83 At the 3-month test-retest: Min=.64, Max=.86, Avg=.75

References for Content Validity: 

Items were selected after an extensive literature search and with input from Child Protective Services. Item analysis was conducted to determine items with the greatest discriminative ability. Exploratory factor analyses and stepwise regression were used to predict abuse status. Cross-validation was used to replicate findings.

Construct Validity: 
Validity TypeNot knownNot foundNonclincal SamplesClinical SamplesDiverse Samples
Sensitive to ChangeYes
Intervention EffectsYes
Longitudinal/Maturation Effects
Sensitive to Theoretically Distinct Groups
Factorial ValidityYesYes
References for Construct Validity: 

Miller, Handal, Gilner, & Cross (1991) found that Black adolescents aged 14-18 scored higher than the adult normative sample of the CAPI, suggesting that different cutoff scores need to be empirically established for adolescents. Adolescents' abuse history and history of witnessing violence were associated with higher abuse potential scores.

Criterion Validity: 
Not KnownNot FoundNonclinical SamplesClinical SamplesDiverse Samples
Predictive Validity:YesYesYes
Postdictive Validity:
References for Criterion Validity: 

See Chapter 5 in the Technical Manual.

Sensitivity Rate Score: 
Specificity Rate Score: 
Positive Predictive Power: 
Overall Psychometric Limitations: 

1. To avoid misclassification, cautious use of the CAPI is recommended in a situation where target base rates of physical abuse are very low. 2. Fewer false positives occur when more conservative cutoffs are used.


Translation Quality: 
Language:TranslatedBack TranslatedReliableGood PsychometricsSimilar Factor StructureNorms AvailableMeasure Developed for this Group
1. SpanishYesYesYesYesYesYes
2. Filipino Yes
3. GreekYesYesYes
4. CroatianYesYesYes

Population Information

Population Used for Measure Development: 

Initial input was gathered from researchers and CPS workers, and an initial questionnaire was developed with 334 items. An initial study was conducted with a small (n=38), fairly homogeneous group of families involved with Child Protection services in North Carolina. Based on the results from initial validity studies, the questions were trimmed to the current 160. Based on the findings from the original study, a second study was begun. It included 130 parents who were given the 160-question form. The sample included 65 abusing parents matched with 65 nonabusing parents from North Carolina and Oklahoma.

For Specific Population: 
Military and Veteran Families
Populations with which Measure Has Demonstrated Reliability and Validity: 
Sexual Abuse
Domestic Violence
Use with Diverse Populations: 
Population Type: Measure Used with Members of this GroupMembers of this Group Studied in Peer-Reviewed JournalsReliableGood PsychometricsNorms AvailableMeasure Developed for this Group
1. Substance abusersYes
2. Day care employeesYes

Pros & Cons/References


1. Easy to use and score. 2. Demonstrated ability to screen for physical abuse risk factors in parents. 3. Has been studied and validated multiple times and is used frequently. 4. Spanish version well studied.


1. According to the manual, care must be taken when utilizing this measure outside of the area of Child Protection. 2. This measure was designed as a tool to identify high-risk parents for physical abuse, and not other types of abuse. 3. It should be used only as one tool, and not as the sole predictor of abuse. 4. This measure is lengthy and takes considerable time to complete. 5. The items are face valid and many parents respond defensively. Although the validity scales help detect invalid response patterns, this still leaves the problem of having invalid responses.


A PsychInfo literature search of the words "Child Abuse Potential Inventory” or “CAPI" (6/05) anywhere revealed that the measure has been referenced in 247 peer-reviewed journal articles. A sampling of these articles appears below. Ammerman, R.T., Kolko, D.J., Kirisci, L., Blackson, T.C., & Dawes, M.A. (1999). Child abuse potential in parents with histories of substance use disorder. Child Abuse & Neglect, 23, 1225-1238. Barbich, A., & Bringiotti, M.I. (1997). Un studio para la adaptacion y validacion del CAP (Child Abuse Potential Inventory). para su uso en la Argentia. Revista del Institutio de Investigaciones de la Facultad do Psicologia, 2(2), 15-31. Baumann, B.L. & Kolko, D.J. (2002). A comparison of abusive and nonabusive mothers of abused children. Child Maltreatment, 7, 369-376. Black, M. M., Nair, P., Kight, C., Wachtel, R., Roby, P., & Schuler, M. (1994). Parenting and early development among children of drug-abusing women: Effects of home intervention. Pediatrics 94, 440-448. Burrell, B., Thompson, B., & Sexton, D. (1992. The measurement integrity of data collected using the Child Abuse Potential Inventory. Educational and Psychological Measurement, 52, 933-1001. Haapasalo, J., & Aaltonen, T. (1999). Child abuse potential: How persistent? Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 14, 571-585. Hansen, D.J., & McMillan, V.M. (1990). Behavioral assessment of child-abusive and neglectful families. Behavior Modification, 14, 255-278. Medora, N.P., Wilson, S., & Larson, J.H. (2001). Attitudes toward parenting strategies, potential for child abuse, and parental satisfaction of ethnically diverse low-income U.S. mothers. Journal of Social Psychology,141(3), 335-348. Miller, T.R., Handal, P.J., Gilner, F.H., & Cross, J.F. (1991). The relationship of abuse and witnessing violence on the Child Abuse Potential Inventory with Black adolescents. Journal of Family Violence, 6(4), 351-363. Milner, J.S. (1994). Assessing physical child abuse risk: The Child Abuse Potential Inventory. Clinical Psychology Review, 14, 547-583. Milner, J.S. (1989). Additional cross-validation of the Child Abuse Potential Inventory. Psychological Assessment, 1, 219-223. Milner, J.S. (1989). Applications of the Child Abuse Potential Inventory. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 45, 450-454. Milner, J.S., & Ayoub, C. (1980). Evaluation of “at risk” parents using the Child Abuse Potential Inventory. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 36, 945-948. Monroe, L.D., & Schellenbach, C.J. (1989). Relationship of Child Abuse Potential Inventory scores to parental responses: A construct validity study. Child and Family Behavior Therapy, 11, 39-58. Mylod, D.E., Whitman, T.L., & Borkowski, J.G. (1997). Predicting adolescent mothers' transition to adulthood. Journal of Research in Adolescence, 7, 457-478. Rodriguez, C.M., & Price, B.L. (2004). Attributions and discipline history as predictors of child abuse. Potential and future discipline practices. Child Abuse & Neglect, 28, 845-861.

Last Updated: 
Monday, March 3, 2014