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Parenting & Family Research Center

Child Welfare: Prevention of Child Maltreatment

This webpage describes research in the area of child welfare. To learn more about the topics described below, view each research article by clicking on corresponding link.

Public Health Approach to Prevention of Child Maltreatment

By definition, child maltreatment (CM) by a family caregiver is parenting gone awry. That prevention of CM would not directly involve the strengthening of parenting is not an easily defended position. However, it is also widely accepted that broader contextual conditions and factors, including those associated with pronounced poverty, adversely affect families and parenting, and exacerbate risk for CM. Parenting-focused intervention is not the only piece needed in a prevention strategy but it is a critical piece nonetheless. Another contextual consideration, often overlooked, is the collective modeling and contagion effect of parenting across the entire community, for better or worse. Coercive and problematic parenting practices do not arise in a vacuum, nor do pro-social ones. Interventions to improve parenting are important to CM prevention but need to be embedded in a broader public health strategy.

Prinz, R. J. (2016). Parenting and family support within a broad child abuse prevention strategy: Child maltreatment
     prevention can benefit from public health strategies. Child Abuse & Neglect51, 400-406.

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Place Randomization Trial for Maltreatment Prevention

The prevention of child maltreatment necessitates a public health approach. A place-randomized-design study focused on the prevention of child-maltreatment-related outcomes at a population level through the implementation of a multi-level system of parenting and family support (the Triple P—Positive Parenting Program). The design involved random assignment of 18 counties to either the intervention system or to a services-as-usual control condition. None of the 18 counties had prior exposure to Triple P. Implementation involved Triple P professional training for the existing workforce (over 600 providers located in several service sectors), as well as universal media and communication strategies. Baseline equivalence of the intervention and control counties was established. Controlling for a five-year baseline period, large effect sizes were found for three independently derived population indicators: substantiated child maltreatment, child out-of- home placements, and hospital-treated child maltreatment injuries. This study is the first to randomize geographical areas and show preventive impact on child maltreatment at a population level using evidence-based parenting interventions.

Prinz, R. J., Sanders, M. R., Shapiro, C. J., Whitaker, D. J., & Lutzker, J. R. (2009). Population-based prevention of child
     maltreatment: The US Triple P system population trial. Prevention Science10, 1-12.  AND  Prinz, R. J., Sanders, M. R.,
     Shapiro, C. J., Whitaker, D. J., & Lutzker, J. R. (2016). Addendum to “Population-Based Prevention of Child Maltreatment:
     The US Triple P System Population Trial”. Prevention Science17, 410-416.

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