Background: In 2004, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force determined that evidence was insufficient to recommend behavioral interventions and counseling to prevent child abuse and neglect.
Purpose: To review new evidence on the effectiveness of behavioral interventions and counseling in health care settings for reducing child abuse and neglect and related health outcomes, as well as adverse effects of interventions.
Data Sources: MEDLINE and PsycINFO (January 2002 to June 2012), Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials and Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (through the second quarter of 2012), Scopus, and reference lists.
Study Selection: English-language trials of the effectiveness of behavioral interventions and counseling and studies of any design about adverse effects.
Data Extraction: Investigators extracted data about study populations, designs, and outcomes and rated study quality using established criteria.
Data Synthesis: Eleven fair-quality randomized trials of interventions and no studies of adverse effects met inclusion criteria. A trial of risk assessment and interventions for abuse and neglect in pediatric clinics for families with children aged 5 years or younger indicated reduced physical assault, Child Protective Services (CPS) reports, nonadherence to medical care, and immunization delay among screened children. Ten trials of early childhood home visitation reported reduced CPS reports, emergency department visits, hospitalizations, and self-reports of abuse and improved adherence to immunizations and well-child care, although results were inconsistent.
Limitation: Trials were limited by heterogeneity, low adherence, high loss to follow-up, and lack of standardized measures.
Conclusion: Risk assessment and behavioral interventions in pediatric clinics reduced abuse and neglect outcomes for young children. Early childhood home visitation also reduced abuse and neglect, but results were inconsistent. Additional research on interventions to prevent child abuse and neglect is needed.
Primary Funding Source: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.