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April 2006Vol. 7, No. 3Pediatricians' Role in Prevention

Routine pediatric care offers a prime opportunity for screening families for the major risk factors for child maltreatment. Through the Preventing Child Abuse and Neglect: A Role for Pediatricians project at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, pediatric residents were trained to recognize risk factors among low-income parents who brought their children to the University's pediatric clinic. Residents were also provided with listings of community resources, so that parents could be connected to services.

To determine the impact of the pediatric residents' special training, a comparison group of residents received no additional training. Families recruited for the study (N=558) were seen by residents from the intervention or comparison groups. Parents assigned to the intervention group completed a screening instrument designed to indicate whether they experienced any of the following:

  • Depression
  • Substance abuse
  • Domestic violence
  • Use of corporal punishment
  • Food insecurity
  • Stress or lack of social support

Preliminary data from parent interviews indicated that special training in recognizing risk factors for child maltreatment improved the pediatric residents' intervention with parents suffering from depression, domestic violence, and stress or lack of social support. Data from questionnaires completed by the residents show that the residents who received the additional training experienced a significant improvement in their comfort level and perceived competence in addressing child maltreatment risk factors. Researchers are continuing to compile data to determine the impact of the training on the actual incidence of child maltreatment.

This type of prevention intervention has a number of advantages, including its low cost, pattern of routine visits with parents and children, and emphasis on prevention. The ability to identify risk factors for child maltreatment early on allows pediatricians to link parents with services to help prevent child abuse and neglect.

For more information on the Preventing Child Abuse and Neglect project, contact:

Howard Dubowitz, M.D., M.S.
Preventing Child Abuse and Neglect Project
Center for Families
525 West Redwood Street
Baltimore, MD 21201
Phone: 410.706.6144

The Preventing Child Abuse and Neglect: A Role for Pediatricians project was funded by the Children's Bureau, Grant 90-CA-1695, under the Children's Bureau Priority Area: Field-Initiated Demonstration Projects Advancing the State of the Art in the Child Abuse and Neglect Field. This article is part of a series highlighting successful Children's Bureau Grant-funded projects around the country, emerging from official Children's Bureau site visits.