This study investigates the prevalence of, and differences in, risk factor characteristics in a sample of two select populations of carers, one of which physically abused their elderly dependants and one of which neglected them. Nineteen carers (nine who had physically abused and 10 who had neglected their elderly relatives), who were referred to clinical psychology by either their general practitioner or their psychiatrist, were invited to take part in this study. A detailed history of risk factors was obtained, including history of alcohol dependency, type and history of mental ill health, history of maltreatment earlier in life, who they were caring for, how long they had been a carer and whether they felt isolated as a carer. Subjects were then given five assessments to determine whether there were any differences between the two groups. These were the Conflict Tactic Scale, Strain Scale, Beck Depression Inventory, Beck Anxiety Inventory and Cost of Care Index. An examination of the risk factors suggests that heavy alcohol consumption and past childhood abuse by fathers were likely to lead to physical abuse. Significantly higher conflict and depression scores were also present in the physical abuse group, while the neglect group had significantly higher anxiety scores. It is suggested that these findings should be incorporated into an assessment of future risk of abuse or neglect by the carer.