Prevention of Maltreatment

Unfortunately, there is little data on how to prevent child maltreatment. Home visiting programs have shown the most promise in the primary prevention of maltreatment, which is preventing abuse or neglect before it occurs. Home visiting programs involve pairing new parents with someone trained or experienced in child development so that the new parents can learn how to care for and respond to the needs of their infants. The most widely modeled programs, when studied, have been successful in reducing the incidence of but have not entirely eliminated child maltreatment in the study populations. Issues of funding in many geographic regions have limited the availability of such services to those families considered at higher risk for maltreatment.

Efforts in the prevention of maltreatment primarily function on the level of secondary prevention. Intervention by social services or other professionals occurs when maltreatment has already taken place or when children are considered already at risk for abuse or neglect. In these situations the focus is on preventing further abuse or neglect, as well as treating and minimizing complications of the maltreatment that has occurred.

There is no doubt that prevention of child maltreatment is a complex issue. There are multiple factors involved when a child is abused or neglected, factors related to the individual child, the family structure, and other environmental stressors (such as poverty). The cycle of violence is a well-known phenomenon, where today's victims become tomorrow's perpetrators. In order to prevent child maltreatment, prevention itself must become a priority. This will require commitment and collaboration from many sources, including individuals, professionals, community groups, and government agencies. All of these sources must be willing to work together to make a difference for children.


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