Rigorous Research on Existing Child Maltreatment Prevention Programs: Introduction to the Special Section

  • 97 Accesses


Awareness of child maltreatment as a major public health problem in the US has increased in recent years. In response, major public initiatives have been launched to fund the delivery of evidence-based programs, such as home visiting, in an effort to promote child and family functioning and health and prevent maltreatment. While promising, the number of families served by these programs remains small relative to need. Further, many families across the US are served by community-designed and supported programs for which rigorous outcome evidence has never been collected. To broaden the evidence-base on child maltreatment prevention programs, and to encourage the use of rigorous research designs in community settings, the Children’s Bureau sponsored four randomized controlled trials of established programs that had a limited or no evidence base. In this introduction to a special section of Prevention Science on the prevention of child maltreatment, an overview is provided on the epidemiology of maltreatment and the funding initiative that sponsored the four trials, and a call is made for further rigorous research by prevention scientists.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Access options

Buy single article

Instant unlimited access to the full article PDF.

US$ 39.95

Price includes VAT for USA

Subscribe to journal

Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.

US$ 99

This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.


  1. Dube, S. R., Felitti, V. J., Dong, M., Chapman, D. P., Giles, W. H., & Anda, R. F. (2003). Childhood abuse, neglect, and household dysfunction and the risk of illicit drug use: The adverse childhood experiences study. Pediatrics, 111, 564–572.

  2. Eddy, J. M., Shortt, J. W., Martinez, C. R., Holmes, A., Wheeler, A., Gau, J., Seeley, J., & Grossman, J. (2019). Outcomes from a randomized controlled trial of the relief nursery program. Prevention Science.

  3. Edwards, V. J., Holden, G. W., Felitti, V. J., & Anda, R. F. (2003). Relationship between multiple forms of childhood maltreatment and adult mental health in community respondents: Results from the adverse childhood experiences study. American Journal of Psychiatry, 160, 1453–1460.

  4. Euser, S., Alink, L. R., Stoltenborgh, M., Bakersman-Kranenburg, M. J., & van Ijsendoom, M. H. (2015). A gloomy picture: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials reveals disappointing effectiveness of programs aiming at preventing child maltreatment. BMC Public Health, 15, 1068.

  5. Felitti, V. J., Anda, R. F., Nordenberg, D., Williamson, D. F., Spitz, A. M., Edwards, V., Koss, M. P., & Marks, J. S. (1998). Relationship of childhood abuse and household dysfunction to many of the leading causes of death in adults: The adverse childhood experiences (ACE) study. American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 14, 245–258.

  6. Finkelhor, D., Turner, H. A., Shattuck, A., & Hamby, S. L. (2015). Prevalence of childhood exposure to violence, crime, and abuse: Results from the National Survey of Children’s Exposure to Violence. Journal of American Medical Association Pediatrics, 169, 746–754.

  7. Green, B., Sanders, M. B., & Tarte, J. M. (2019). Effects of home visiting program implementation on preventive health care access and utilization: Results from a randomized trial of Healthy Families Oregon. Prevention Science.

  8. Hahm, H. C., Lee, Y., Ozonoff, A., & Van Wert, M. J. (2010). The impact of multiple types of child maltreatment on subsequent risk behaviors among women during the transition from adolescence to young adulthood. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 39, 528–540.

  9. Hills, S. D., Mercy, J. A., & Saul, J. R. (2017). The enduring impact of violence against children. Psychology, Health & Medicine, 22, 393–405.

  10. Korfmacher, J. (2019). Balancing rigor with complexity in understanding the impacts of child maltreatment prevention programs. Prevention Science.

  11. LeCroy, C. W., & Lopez, D. (2019). A randomized controlled trial of healthy families: 6-month and 1-year follow-up. Prevention Science.

  12. Liu, R. T., Scopelliti, K. M., Pittman, S. K., & Alejandra, S. Z. (2018). Childhood maltreatment and non-suicidal self-injury: A systematic review and meta-analysis. The Lancet Psychiatry, 5, 51–64.

  13. Mrazek, P. J., & Haggerty, R. J. (Eds.). (1991). Reducing risks for mental disorders: Frontiers for preventive intervention research. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

  14. O’Neill, K., Cluxton-Keller, F., Burrell, L., Shea Crowne, S., & Duggan, A. (2019). Impact of a child abuse primary prevention strategy for new mothers. Prevention Science.

  15. Paul, G. L. (1967). Strategy of outcome research in psychotherapy. Journal of Consulting Psychology, 31, 109–118.

  16. Peterson, C., Florence, C., & Klevens, J. (2018). The economic burden of child maltreatment in the United States, 2015. Child Abuse & Neglect, 86, 178–183.

  17. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Children’s Bureau (2019). Child maltreatment. 2017. Retrieved June 10, 2019 from:

  18. Vanderminden, J., Hamby, S., David-Ferdon, C., Kacha-Ochana, A., Merrick, M., Simon, T. R., Finkelhor, D., & Turner, H. (2018). Rates of neglect in a national sample: Child and family characteristics and psychological impact. Child Abuse & Neglect, 88, 256–265.

  19. Weber, S., Jud, A., & Landolt, M. A. (2016). Quality of life in maltreated children and adult survivors of child maltreatment: A systematic review. Quality of Life Research, 25, 237–255.

Download references

Author information

Correspondence to J. Mark Eddy.

Ethics declarations

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.

Ethical Approval

This paper does not report findings from an empirical study; no approval by an institutional review board was required.

Informed Consent

This paper does not report results from primary or secondary data analyses of studies with human participants; no informed consent was required.


The viewpoints expressed in this paper are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or polices of their employers.

Additional information

Publisher’s Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Eddy, J.M., Sneddon, D. Rigorous Research on Existing Child Maltreatment Prevention Programs: Introduction to the Special Section. Prev Sci 21, 1–3 (2020) doi:10.1007/s11121-019-01058-6

Download citation


  • Child maltreatment
  • Abuse
  • Neglect
  • Randomized controlled trials
  • Evidence-based programs and practices