Topic: Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (Primary) Programs

Scientific Ratings in this topic:

1 - Well-Supported by Research Evidence

2 - Supported by Research Evidence

3 - Promising Research Evidence

4 - Evidence Fails to Demonstrate Effect

5 - Concerning Practice

NR - Not able to be Rated

Learn more about the scale

Definition for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (Primary) Programs:

Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (Primary) Programs is defined by the CEBC as programs directed at the general population which are designed to prevent abuse and neglect from occurring for the first time in a family. They may also be called "universal prevention programs." These programs may educate the general public, service providers, and policymakers about the scope and problems associated with child maltreatment, the factors that lead to maltreatment, and ways to prevent it. Services may include public education campaigns, educational efforts (including parent education programs and universal efforts to educate children on safety and young adults on relationship building), support groups, and family support and strengthening programs.

In addition to programs specifically focused on preventing child abuse and neglect, which are listed below, services focused on the underlying factors or causes for maltreatment should be included as part of any comprehensive prevention plan. Services that may be associated with the prevention of maltreatment include treatment for substance abuse and mental health problems, addressing anger management and domestic violence issues, parent training, home visitation, and support for basic needs, such as housing and nutrition. Please note that many of these areas have been reviewed by the CEBC; please click here for a list of topic areas on the CEBC. These programs are not included in the Primary Prevention topic area unless they meet the criteria below.

  • Target population: All members of the community, including service providers, policymakers, and child-serving organizations. May also target specific members of the population on a broad basis, such as all parents, all parents of newborns, or school teachers.
  • Services/types that fit: Public service campaigns, educational efforts, family strengthening programs
  • Delivered by: Child welfare workers, mental health professionals, family support workers, home visitors, public health nurses, or trained paraprofessionals
  • In order to be included: Program must specifically target the prevention of abuse and/or neglect. Programs may prevent maltreatment as a primary or secondary outcome.
  • In order to be rated: There must be research evidence (as specified by the Scientific Rating Scale) that examines maltreatment-related outcomes, such as abuse and neglect reports and abuse-related parenting behaviors, either observed or self-reported; or prevention-related outcomes such as children's knowledge and/or behavior regarding personal safety including recognizing, resisting, and reporting inappropriate touches and behaviors.
Note: The CEBC has already examined programs in the following related topic areas: Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (Secondary) Programs, Interventions for Neglect, Interventions for Abusive Behavior, and Home Visiting Programs for Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect.

Downloadable Topic Area Summary

Programs in this Topic Area

The programs listed below have been reviewed by the CEBC and, if appropriate, been rated using the Scientific Rating Scale.

Two Programs with a Scientific Rating of 1 - Well-Supported by Research Evidence:

  • Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP)
    First time, low-income mothers (adolescents and adults, with no set maximum age) and their infants ages birth-2 years
  • Safe Environment for Every Kid (SEEK)
    Primary Prevention use: Families with children aged 0-5 years. Secondary Prevention use: Families with children aged 0-5 years who have ...

Four Programs with a Scientific Rating of 2 - Supported by Research Evidence:

11 Programs with a Scientific Rating of 3 - Promising Research Evidence:

Six Programs with a Scientific Rating of NR - Not able to be Rated:

  • Circle of Parents®
    Parents or individuals in a parenting role for children ages 0-18 years and their children ages birth to 12
  • Circles of Safety®
    Youth serving organizations with professionals, paraprofessionals, and all others who work in settings where adults and children and/or adolescents ...
  • Family Hui
    Parents of children birth to five years old
  • Happiest Baby, The (THB)
    New parents, grandparents, teachers and healthcare professionals
  • MBF Teen Safety Matters®
    Youth in grades 6-12, their parents/guardians, and personnel at the youth’s school
  • Safe Families for Children (SFFC)
    Parents in crisis and their children from birth to 18 years of age who are in need of safe place to ...

Why was this topic chosen by the Advisory Committee?

The Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (Primary) Programs topic area is relevant to child welfare because these programs have the potential to decrease the number of children needing child welfare services. These universal prevention programs aim to prevent child abuse and neglect from occurring. According to the Children's Bureau's Child Maltreatment 2013 report, it is estimated there are 3.5 million reports of child abuse made annually in the United States involving 6.4 million children. Programs that decrease the likelihood that children will ever be abused or neglected through educating parents, teachers, doctors, other service providers, and the general public about the scope and problems associated with child maltreatment, the factors that lead to maltreatment, and ways to prevent it are important. Studies such as the CDC's Adverse Childhood Experiences study have shown the long-term medical effects of childhood trauma. Preventing these long-term effects by preventing childhood abuse and neglect would have a huge impact on creating a physically and mentally healthier U.S. population.

Topic Expert

Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (Primary) Programs was one of new topic areas launched in 2015. Deborah Daro, PhD was the topic expert and was involved in identifying and rating any of the programs with an original load date of 2015 or earlier (as found on the bottom of the program's page on the CEBC). The topic area has grown over the years and in 2023, the topic area was revised and expanded. All of the Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (Primary) Programs added since 2015 were identified by CEBC staff, the Scientific Panel, and/or the Advisory Committee. For these programs, Dr. Daro was not involved in identifying or rating them.