Prevention of Abuse

In addition to the obvious desirable benefit of reducing victimization and neglect among children, any program that prevents child abuse has the potential to prevent violent crime perpetrated by child abuse victims. It is telling that few of those writing about abuse “prevention” advocate harsh criminal justice responses, such as sending parents to prison, which are sometimes showcased in news reports. Rather, most scholars advocate programs that support parents and teach them appropriate ways of dealing with their children. These programs can be expensive, and the cost-benefits may not appear for some time after the program is paid for (see the description of Hawaii Healthy Start by Welsh, 2003).

Offering help and support to high risk families may be the best approach to address the risk factors for abuse which include the youth of the mother, parental substance abuse and mental health problems, as well as a lack of a family support system. The most highlighted program for abuse prevention is the Nurse-Family Partnership program. Olds and colleagues reported that babies of nurse-visited women were less likely to be seen in the emergency room in the first years of life (Olds, Henderson, Chamberlain, Tatelbaum, 1986). The comparison of injuries between the experimental group and the control group paint a chilling picture of the latter, and an extremely optimistic picture of the former. A meta-analysis of studies found substantial effects of home visiting programs on family wellness and child maltreatment (MacLeod & Nelson, 2000).

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