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Accumulating Evidence for Parent–Child Interaction Therapy in the Prevention of Child Maltreatment


  • A portion of this work was included in the PhD dissertation completed by the first author and was presented at the 2009 biannual meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development. This research was partially supported by funding from Future Directions Prevention and Early Intervention Trials, Queensland Department of Child Safety, Australia. We greatly appreciate the assistance of families who participated in this research. In addition, we wish to thank members of the Family Interaction Research Program at Griffith University and members of the School of Psychology at Griffith University for their willingness to share ideas and space.

concerning this article should be addressed to Rae Thomas, School of Psychology, Griffith Health Institute, Griffith University, Queensland, Australia 4222. Electronic mail may be sent to


In a randomized controlled trial, the effectiveness of Parent–Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) and correlates of maltreatment outcomes were examined. Mothers (N = 150) had a history or were at high risk of maltreating their children. After 12 weeks and compared to waitlist, PCIT mothers were observed to have improved parent–child interactions and reported better child behavior and decreased stress. At PCIT completion, improvements continued and mothers reported less child abuse potential and had improved maternal sensitivity. Also, PCIT completers were less likely to be notified to child welfare than noncompleters. Finally, those families not notified post-PCIT showed greater reductions in child abuse potential and improvements in observed sensitivity during treatment. Implications for theory and practice are discussed.

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