The National Academies’ Institute of Medicine and National Research Council have released “New Directions in Child Abuse and Neglect Research.” Commissioned by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children, Youth and Families, the report examines research findings on the extent, causes, and consequences of child abuse and neglect and the effectiveness of intervention programs. It also provides recommendations for establishing a coordinated national infrastructure to support future child abuse and neglect research.
The report states that research is unanimous that the most effective programs target parents as the primary change agents. In these interventions, children may not even receive treatment and the interventions are fully parent mediated, especially in the case of younger children. Even in cases with child behavior problems, the report indicates that proven parent-mediated intervention promotes a more secure attachment and stronger bonding, which in turn improves the child’s behavior and reduces the chance of future abuse or neglect. While parent interventions are not new, what is new is recognition at the program level that:
“…parenting practices and child behavior problems are inextricably interrelated and are best addressed through a single parenting-focused intervention, as opposed to sending parents to parent education classes and children to individual therapy…the parenting interventions typically offered were didactic classes or peer support, neither of which involve learning and using new skills…while parenting classes are still common, it is increasingly appreciated that they are unlikely to produce behavior change in abusive or neglectful parents.” Pp. 6-4 (emphasis added).
This new report concludes that while there has been great progress in child abuse and neglect research, a coordinated, national research infrastructure with high-level federal support needs to be established and implemented immediately. The report identifies four areas to look to in developing this coordinated research enterprise: a national strategic plan, a national surveillance system, a new generation of researchers, and changes in federal and state programmatic and policy response. For a great infographic on understanding child abuse and neglect and the full report, click here.
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