A proven way to lower rates of child abuse

February 2, 2009

Community outreaches focused on raising children in a healthy environment may prevent parental abuse of children, according to a new study.

Community outreaches focused on raising children in a healthy environment may prevent parental abuse of children, according to a study in the Jan. 26 online edition of Prevention Science.

The program was instituted in various pockets of South Carolina. Researchers discovered that cases of child abuse and poor treatment of children can be lowered if advice on how to address troubling circumstances with children is available. Results showed a drop in emergency room visits as well as child abuse cases with such preventive aid, according to Ron Prinz, PhD, lead researcher.

The program, modified from an Australian version, is called Triple P for Positive Parenting Program. Skills addressed include providing a safe home, encouraging learning, and discipline tactics. A range of 8,883 and 13,560 families within the Triple P counties participated in the program. Three outcomes were measured: substantial child maltreatment, out-of-home placements, and injuries from abuse.

For substantiated child maltreatment, prevention limited spread of the problem, compared with control counties that showed substantial growth in child maltreatment, researchers said. However the program yielded decreases for child out-of-home placements and injuries resulting from abuse. The researchers said the effects would translate to 688 fewer cases of maltreatment, 240 fewer out-of-home placements, and 60 fewer children with injuries requiring hospitalization or emergency room treatment in a community with 100,000 children under age 8.

Researchers stressed that the program needs to be sustained over time, because "the fact that with a mobile population, parents of children at various ages are always entering a catchment area but have no prior exposure to Triple P, and the possibility of spillover effects from intervention to control counties."

"All things considered," the researchers concluded, "this study provides an encouraging demonstration that evidence-based parenting interventions can achieve population-level preventive impact on major social problems such as child maltreatment."

The study was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. No conflicts of interest were reported.