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November 2000Vol. 1, No. 7Home Visitation Measured as a Way to Prevent Child Abuse

An article published in the September issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association looks at the relationship between home visitations and the incidence of child maltreatment in those homes.

Although home visitation has long been promoted as a way to prevent child abuse, there has not been much scientific study to back this up.

Over a period of 15 years, researchers followed 324 women who originally enrolled in the study as socially disadvantaged pregnant women with no previous live births. A control group received routine perinatal care, while two other groups received, respectively, routine care plus nurse home visits during pregnancy only and during pregnancy up until the child's second birthday.

Among the findings of this study of New York State families was that "there were significantly fewer child maltreatment reports involving the mother as perpetrator...or involving the study child...for families receiving home visitation during pregnancy and infancy vs. families not receiving home visitation." However, the beneficial effect of home visiting through the first two years was diminished among mothers reporting more than 28 incidents of domestic violence over 15 years (21% of the sample).

Since domestic violence may limit the effectiveness of interventions to reduce child abuse and neglect, the researchers recommended new approaches to strengthen and expand basic services. These include the promotion of partner communication and a domestic violence assessment and education program.

The complete article is available online to paid subscribers of the Journal of the American Medical Association and to all American Medical Association members by registering at

For reprints, contact:
John Eckenrode, Ph.D.
Family Life Development Center
MVR Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853