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July/August 2013Vol. 14, No. 6Comparing Child Maltreatment Interventions

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) recently published a report examining the comparative effectiveness of interventions designed to address the negative outcomes associated with child maltreatment. The research report was rooted in three primary objectives:

  • To assess the comparative effectiveness of psychosocial and/or pharmacological interventions addressing child well-being and child welfare outcomes for children between the ages of 0 and 14 who have been exposed to maltreatment
  • To assess the comparative effectiveness of interventions with different treatment elements (for child and caregiver subpopulations) and for engaging and retaining participants in treatment
  • To assess potential harms associated with interventions for this population

Researchers reviewed 6,282 abstracts and synthesized results from 24 separate trials, concluding that the literature on the subject matter is extremely limited due to the following substantive and methodological gaps:

  • The unique programs that were tested often employed extremely similar intervention strategies.
  • There was generally a utilization of usual care, wait-list, or derived control groups, rather than head-to-head comparisons using alternative treatment options.
  • Most studies only measured short-term outcomes.
  • There was inadequate reporting of attrition.
  • There was wide heterogeneity in type and psychometric soundness for the measurement of outcomes across studies.

The researchers note that they were able to identify several interventions that show promising child well-being and child welfare benefits; however, they conclude by saying that the literature review primarily displays an urgent need to improve and build upon the evidence base for interventions that promote the well-being of children who have experienced maltreatment.

Child Exposure to Trauma: Comparative Effectiveness of Interventions Addressing Maltreatment is available on the AHRQ website: (3 MB)