Parenting Programs Can Help Prevent Child Abusepricing psychology
Parenting Programs Can Help Prevent Child Abusepricing psychologyTHE BASICS A Parent’s Role Find a family therapist near me Key points Parenting programs can help to prevent child maltreatment, according to a new systematic review. Research shows programs offered to broad populations are most effective. Programs led to improvements in both parents’ skills and children’s behavior. Source: Georg Preissl/Adobe Stock
Child abuse remains a serious problem: Nearly 700,000 children are abused in the U.S annually. No one needs an academic study to understand that abuse and neglect take a terrible toll on young people, their families, and society. We now have clear evidence that child abuse has long-term effects on its victims’ mental and physical health throughout their lives.
A new systematic review looks at one potential avenue for preventing child maltreatment: parenting programs. Brazilian researchers identified 18 studies published between 2015 and 2019 that evaluate what types of interventions can help.
The research paper summarizes evaluations of universal parenting programs – meaning those offered to all families, not just those identified as high-risk for child maltreatment. This serves two purposes: It can be difficult to identify which families are at risk, and it prevents a stigma associated with program participation.
On the whole, the review found that parenting programs do make a difference. Of the 18 studies in the review, 16 found that these interventions led to a positive change in parenting practices.
Eleven of the studies in the review assessed whether parents used physical punishment and harsh discipline; of those, 10 studies found these behaviors decreased upon completion of the intervention programs. Individual studies found that specific parenting programs reduced “the frequency of parents yelling at and humiliating their children,” facial injuries to children, psychological violence, and threats of violence. The authors also found evidence that parenting programs helped to reduce parents’ stress levels and helped parents better regulate their emotions.
Researchers found improvements in children’s behavior as well. After their parents participated in programs, some kids were more likely to get along with other kids and less likely to demonstrate anxious or aggressive behavior.
“This review adds to the evidence that all parents of young children could benefit from cost-effective and non-stigmatizing group-based training designed to increase positive parenting practices and knowledge of child development,” said John Eckenrode, professor emeritus of human development at Cornell University and co-director of the National Data Archive of Child Abuse and Neglect, part of the Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research.
“Currently, as a society, we offer youth and young adults more training to drive a car than to parent a child, so we could do much more,” he said. “But while important, parenting programs are only one tool. As we promote their expanded use, let’s not forget that maltreatment in all forms is most strongly related to structural issues like poverty and income inequality. Major progress in preventing child maltreatment will therefore require social policies and programs that directly address those issues as well.”
The take-home message: Intervention programs that teach positive parenting skills are an important and effective way to prevent child abuse and mistreatment.
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