Child maltreatment and other violent behaviors may be emitted when the individual’s adaptive resources are overwhelmed by the demands with which they are challenged. The inability to contend with social pressures with which individuals are confronted is of course implied in the observation of child maltreatment; evidence of ‘a substantial imbalance’ between stress and the capacity to resist it. Because of clinical belief in the linkage of stress and abusive and neglectful parental behavior, new programs seek to protect children by reducing stress experienced by their parents. The ecological method has a tradition of service to the social sciences, particularly in the study of mental health. Its past record of utility in examining the incidence of deviant behavior across geographic units suggested the suitability of its application in future investigation of the etiology of child maltreatment. Ecological investigation is often founded on secondary analysis of existing data.