Preventing child maltreatment: an evidence-based update.
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Child maltreatment is a significant public health problem associated with a broad range of negative outcomes in children and adolescents that can extend into adulthood. This review summarizes information about programs aimed at the prevention of child maltreatment evaluated by controlled trials, with a focus on home visitation programs. It does not include programs aimed at prevention of child sexual abuse, the subject of a separate review in this series. We discuss those programs that include one or more measures of child maltreatment and related outcomes (reports of abuse and neglect, injuries, hospitalizations and emergency room visits). Most programs targeting at-risk families have not shown evidence of effectiveness in preventing abuse or neglect. An important exception is the Nurse Family Partnership (NFP), a program provided by nurses to first-time socially disadvantaged mothers beginning prenatally that has undergone rigorous evaluation in three randomized controlled trials. It has shown consistent effects in reducing reports of maltreatment and associated outcomes as well as additional benefits in maternal and child health in high-risk families. A second exception is the promising Early Start program provided by nurses and social workers to at-risk families beginning postnatally. One randomized controlled trial of the program has shown reduced rates of parental reports of severe abuse and hospital attendance for injuries and poisonings, based on records. The characteristics of the NFP and Early Start programs are discussed with special emphasis on ways in which they differ from other home visitation programs.
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