Master's Project Title:

Child Abuse Prevention from a Public Health Perspective: A Review of the Literature.

MCH Student:

Graciela Wilcox

Date of Defense:

June 3, 2014


Objective:  Child maltreatment is prevalent in the United States and affects hundreds of  thousands of children each year.  In recent decades, an increased appreciation for the potential  value of prevention strategies has resulted in trials to determine the efficacy of various  interventions to prevent child abuse and neglect.  The purpose of this literature review was to  better understand what research reveals about the efficacy of these strategies to decrease child  maltreatment.

Methods: A search was performed using PubMed through the University of Minnesota library  website.  Search terms used were “child maltreatment prevention”, “child abuse prevention” and  “child neglect prevent ion”.  A common abstraction form was used to retrieve information from  the articles for comparative purposes.  Quality of articles chosen was examined using the U.S.  Preventive Services Task Force (USPTF) “Hierarchy of research design and quality rating  criteria”.

Results: The search identified 1257 articles from the past five years.  Twelve were chosen for  this review along with one additional article that had been identified on a previous search and  included an observational study, a conceptual paper with case studies, four literature reviews,  two non – randomized controlled studies and five randomized controlled studies.  The four main  types of interventions identified included community – based programs, home – visiting/early  childhood programs, hospital or clinic – based program s and one population – based trial.  Home – visiting/early childhood programs have the best evidence for effectiveness to prevent child  maltreatment.  Community – based interventions have the least evidence due to a paucity of  studies with good analytic design.  Two hospital and clinic – based programs have some evidence  for positive results with variability in efficacy by target group.  The population – based trial of a  parenting program appeared to show some positive effects, but should be replicated to better  clarify effects on the actual incidence of child maltreatment.

Conclusion:  Further research is needed to better elucidate the most effective child maltreatment  prevention strategies and for which target groups they are most efficacious.