Parent help program reduces child abuse: study

Mon Jan 26, 2009 7:49pm EST
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By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Editor

WASHINGTON (Reuters Life!) - A parenting program that trains nurses, social workers and even clergy to advise struggling parents lowered rates of child abuse and helped keep kids out of foster care, researchers reported.

The Positive Parenting Program or "triple P" provides information on discipline from handling a grocery store tantrum to controlling bedwetting, the researchers said.

It combines this training in a way that spreads the skills throughout a community, so parents do not have to seek the help, and do not have to be embarrassed by getting the advice, said Ron Prinz of the University of South Carolina, who led the study.

"This is the first large-scale study to show that by providing all families, not just families in crisis, with access to parenting information and support, we can reduce the rates of child maltreatment in whole communities," Prinz said.

For the experiment, paid for by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Prinz and his team made the program available to all parents in 18 South Carolina counties.

They found that over two years, proven cases of child abuse were reduced by 9 percent, foster care placements by 22 percent and hospitalizations or emergency-room visits by 14 percent.

In a community with 100,000 children under age 8, Prinz reported in the journal Prevention Science, the program would lead to 688 fewer maltreated children, 240 fewer out-of-home placements such as to foster care, and 60 fewer serious injuries.

"Triple P has very practical parenting strategies that they can use to solve everyday kinds of problems -- things like how to deal with tantrums in the grocery store or mealtime issues or bedtime," Prinz said in a telephone interview.   Continued...

<p>A boy towing his boogie board slaps hands with his father after climbing up a sand hill after sunset at Moonlight Beach, California in this November 17, 2008 file photo. REUTERS/Mike Blake</p>