October 01, 2012

Innovations in Child Abuse and Neglect Prevention

The views expressed herein have not been approved by the House of Delegates or the Board of Governors of the American Bar Association, and accordingly, should not be construed as representing the policy of the American Bar Association.

Child abuse and neglect prevention is a complex field due, in part, to the diverse factors that can lead to maltreatment. As a result, prevention strategies, interventions, and initiatives must address multiple issues and rely on expertise from various disciplines.

A new Chapin Hall literature review considers recent, multidisciplinary research that can lead to innovative and improved ways to target, design, and monitor child abuse prevention efforts. The author identifies and explores eight promising trends or lines of learning:

  • Advances in neuroscience highlight the negative impacts of poor parenting and stress on a child’s developing brain.

  • Social context and culture can protect the developing child and strengthen parental capacity in important ways that can buffer against individual and contextual risk factors.

  • Promising community prevention strategies create new opportunities and challenges in intervention design, implementation, and evaluation.

  • An increasing number of federal policy initiatives are directing public investments towards evidence-based programs.

  • New research findings continue to underscore the importance of addressing the needs of new parents and young children.

  • Implementation science offers program managers effective research frameworks to monitor and strengthen the service delivery process and to improve the odds of replicating model programs with fidelity and quality.

  • Maximizing population level change requires new understanding of how to construct and sustain effective state systems, local community collaboratives, and robust community-based organizations.

  • New technologies offer important, cost-effective opportunities for advancing our reach into new populations and supporting direct service providers.

The review discusses implications for future research, program planning, and public policy relevant to preventing maltreatment, strengthening families, and promoting the health and well-being of children.