Evaluation of a Clinic-Based Parent Education Program to Reduce the Risk of Infant and Toddler Maltreatment


Colleen E. Huebner, Ph.D., M.P.H., Maternal and Child Health Program, Box 357230, Department of Health Services, School of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195. E-mail: colleenh@u.washington.edu


Community-based parent education programs are a common component of service plans for abusive and potentially abusive parents. Despite their widespread use, few studies have evaluated the effect of such programs to change actual parenting behavior even though this is a key intervention goal. The purpose of this study was to evaluate whether a relatively brief and inexpensive clinic-based education program could benefit parents of infants and toddlers by alleviating parental stress and improving parent–child interaction. Participants were 199parents of children 1 through 36 months of age who were at risk for parenting problems and child maltreatment due to serious life stress including poverty, low social support, personal histories of childhood maltreatment, and substance abuse. Program effects were evaluated in terms of improvement in self-reported parenting stress and observed parent–child interaction. Positive effects were documented for the group as a whole and within each of three subgroups: two community samples and a group of mothers and children in residential drug treatment. Additional analyses illustrated a dose–response relationship between program attendance and magnitude of gain in observed parenting skills.