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May 9, 1980

Physicians can help in reducing child abuse

JAMA. 1980;243(18):1792. doi:10.1001/jama.1980.03300440006003

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Between 1974 and 1977, the US Department of Health and Human Services (formerly the US Department of Health, Education, and Welfare), through the National Center for Health Services Research, sponsored a study of treatment programs for parents who abused their children. In all, 1,724 abusing parents were treated at 11 demonstration centers.

In the February 1980 issue of Pediatrics, Anne Harris Cohn, DPH, summarizes the results of the study.

Overall, says Cohn, "the treatment programs... were not particularly successful in helping abusive parents and thus in protecting the child." For instance, 30% of the children were reabused while their parents were in treatment. And only 42% of the parents were less likely to reabuse their children after treatment. This, despite the fact that "the programs studied... had access to special resources and expertise."

None of the parents' characteristics was predictive of who would benefit from treatment. However, one treatment factor