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Study shows parenting programme cuts child abuse

28 Jan 2009

A landmark study has found that a programme promoting good parenting can significantly lower rates of child abuse injuries and foster care placements when offered to parents community-wide.

The Triple P – Positive Parenting Programme – is a population approach promoting parenting competence with well-developed theoretical, scientific and clinical foundations.

Results of the five-year study, which was funded by the prestigious Center for Disease Control and Prevention and led by Dr Ron Prinz at the University of South Carolina, were published today in the online edition of the Prevention Science journal. 

It is the first large-scale study to show that providing all families – not just families at risk – with access to proven parenting information and support can reduce rates of child maltreatment.

The study found that making Triple P available to all parents led to significantly lower rates of confirmed child abuse, fewer out-of-home placements and fewer hospitalisations from child abuse injuries, when compared to communities without access to Triple P.

Researchers estimate for every 100,000 children under the age of eight, the results could translate annually into 688 fewer cases of child maltreatment, 240 fewer children in care and 60 fewer children being admitted to hospital or emergency departments with abuse injuries.

Study co-author, Matt Sanders, visiting professor at The University of Manchester, said the research added to the already strong evidence base of Triple P. 

“We already know Triple P can alleviate parents’ stress and depression and help prevent and reduce child emotional and behavioural problems,” said Professor Sanders, who is the founder of Triple P and director of the Parenting and Family Support Centre at The University of Queensland.
 
“But this research shows that by providing all parents – not just those at risk – with parenting support through evidence-based programs, we can have a major impact on child maltreatment. We can hold back the growth in child abuse, keep children out of foster care and in their own homes and see fewer injured children in hospitals.”

Dr Rachel Calam, a clinical psychologist at The University of Manchester, said: “These results are very significant, given the recent coverage of high profile child abuse cases, such as Baby P, and the UK Government’s commitment to improve the lives of children in Britain.”

The US study was conducted in 18 counties in South Carolina, nine of which were chosen randomly to receive Triple P. Parents of children from birth to 12 years could easily access Triple P information through a variety of methods, including mainstream media, brief public seminars and trained counsellors at clinics, schools, churches and community centres.

“We would expect similar results in the UK if all families here were offered easy access to Triple P. Parents are looking for practical solutions to parenting problems that work,” added Professor Sanders.

The CDC chose Triple P as its preferred parenting method for the study because of its solid evidence base and its flexibility for parents seeking support.

Triple P was developed at The University of Queensland by Professor Sanders and colleagues and is based on 30 years’ clinical research. The programme is now used by governments and health authorities in 17 countries, including England, Scotland, Ireland, Canada, Sweden, Australia and the United States.

Ends

Notes for editors

For further information contact:

Aeron Haworth
Media Officer
Faculty of Medical and Human Sciences
The University of Manchester

Tel: 0161 275 8383

Email: aeron.haworth@manchester.ac.uk