[Skip to Content]
Sign In
Individual Sign In
Create an Account
Institutional Sign In
OpenAthens Shibboleth
Purchase Options:
[Skip to Content Landing]
Figure 1.
USPSTF Grades and Levels of Evidence
USPSTF Grades and Levels of Evidence

USPSTF indicates US Preventive Services Task Force.

Figure 2.
Clinical Summary: Interventions to Prevent Child Maltreatment
Clinical Summary: Interventions to Prevent Child Maltreatment

USPSTF indicates US Preventive Services Task Force.

1.
US Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children, Youth, and Families, Children’s Bureau. Child maltreatment 2016. https://www.acf.hhs.gov/cb/resource/child-maltreatment-2016. Published February 1, 2018. Accessed October 11, 2018.
2.
Leeb  RT, Paulozzi  LJ, Melanson  C, Simon  TR, Arias  I.  Child Maltreatment Surveillance: Uniform Definitions for Public Health and Recommended Data Elements. Version 1.0. Atlanta: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control; 2008.
3.
Viswanathan  M, Fraser  JG, Pan  H,  et al.  Primary Care Interventions to Prevent Child Maltreatment: An Evidence Review for the US Preventive Services Task Force: Evidence Synthesis No. 170. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; 2018. AHRQ publication 18-05241-EF-1.
4.
Child Welfare Information Gateway.  About CAPTA: A Legislative History. Washington, DC: US Department of Health and Human Services; 2017.
5.
Viswanathan  M, Fraser  JG, Pan  H,  et al.  Primary care interventions to prevent child maltreament: updated evidence report and systematic review for the US Preventive Services Task Force  [published November 27, 2018]. JAMA. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.17647
6.
Child Welfare Information Gateway.  Definitions of Child Abuse and Neglect. Washington, DC: US Department of Health and Human Services; 2014.
7.
Sedlak  AJ, Mettenburg  J, Basena  M,  et al.  Fourth National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect (NIS–4): Report to Congress, Executive Summary. Washington, DC: US Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families; 2010.
8.
Christian  CW; Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect, American Academy of Pediatrics.  The evaluation of suspected child physical abuse.  Pediatrics. 2015;135(5):e1337-e1354. doi:10.1542/peds.2015-0356PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
9.
Flaherty  EG, Jones  R, Sege  R; Child Abuse Recognition Experience Study Research Group.  Telling their stories: primary care practitioners’ experience evaluating and reporting injuries caused by child abuse.  Child Abuse Negl. 2004;28(9):939-945. doi:10.1016/j.chiabu.2004.03.013PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
10.
Child Welfare Information Gateway.  What Is Child Abuse and Neglect? Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms. Washington, DC: US Department of Health and Human Services; 2013.
11.
Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), Maternal and Child Health Bureau. Home visiting. HRSA webite. https://mchb.hrsa.gov/maternal-child-health-initiatives/home-visiting-overview. Accessed October 11, 2018.
12.
Moyer  VA; U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.  Screening for intimate partner violence and abuse of elderly and vulnerable adults: U.S. preventive services task force recommendation statement.  Ann Intern Med. 2013;158(6):478-486. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-158-6-201303190-00588PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
13.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Child abuse and neglect prevention. CDC website. https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/childabuseandneglect/index.html. Updated April 10, 2018. Accessed October 11, 2018.
14.
National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN). Complex trauma. NCTSN website. https://www.nctsn.org/what-is-child-trauma/trauma-types/complex-trauma. NCTSN website. Accessed October 11, 2018.
15.
Moyer  VA; U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.  Primary care interventions to prevent child maltreatment: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendation statement.  Ann Intern Med. 2013;159(4):289-295. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-159-4-201308200-00667PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
16.
Lowell  DI, Carter  AS, Godoy  L, Paulicin  B, Briggs-Gowan  MJ.  A randomized controlled trial of Child FIRST: a comprehensive home-based intervention translating research into early childhood practice.  Child Dev. 2011;82(1):193-208. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8624.2010.01550.xPubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
17.
Olds  DL, Eckenrode  J, Henderson  CR  Jr,  et al.  Long-term effects of home visitation on maternal life course and child abuse and neglect: fifteen-year follow-up of a randomized trial.  JAMA. 1997;278(8):637-643. doi:10.1001/jama.1997.03550080047038PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
18.
Eckenrode  J, Ganzel  B, Henderson  CR  Jr,  et al.  Preventing child abuse and neglect with a program of nurse home visitation: the limiting effects of domestic violence.  JAMA. 2000;284(11):1385-1391. doi:10.1001/jama.284.11.1385PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
19.
Zielinski  DS, Eckenrode  J, Olds  DL.  Nurse home visitation and the prevention of child maltreatment: impact on the timing of official reports.  Dev Psychopathol. 2009;21(2):441-453. doi:10.1017/S0954579409000248PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
20.
DuMont  K, Mitchell-Herzfeld  S, Greene  R,  et al.  Healthy Families New York (HFNY) randomized trial: effects on early child abuse and neglect.  Child Abuse Negl. 2008;32(3):295-315. doi:10.1016/j.chiabu.2007.07.007PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
21.
Barlow  J, Davis  H, McIntosh  E, Jarrett  P, Mockford  C, Stewart-Brown  S.  Role of home visiting in improving parenting and health in families at risk of abuse and neglect: results of a multicentre randomised controlled trial and economic evaluation.  Arch Dis Child. 2007;92(3):229-233. doi:10.1136/adc.2006.095117PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
22.
McIntosh  E, Barlow  J, Davis  H, Stewart-Brown  S.  Economic evaluation of an intensive home visiting programme for vulnerable families: a cost-effectiveness analysis of a public health intervention.  J Public Health (Oxf). 2009;31(3):423-433. doi:10.1093/pubmed/fdp047PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
23.
Brayden  RM, Altemeier  WA, Dietrich  MS,  et al.  A prospective study of secondary prevention of child maltreatment.  J Pediatr. 1993;122(4):511-516. doi:10.1016/S0022-3476(05)83528-0PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
24.
Brooten  D, Kumar  S, Brown  LP,  et al.  A randomized clinical trial of early hospital discharge and home follow-up of very-low-birth-weight infants.  N Engl J Med. 1986;315(15):934-939. doi:10.1056/NEJM198610093151505PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
25.
Marcenko  MO, Spence  M.  Home visitation services for at-risk pregnant and postpartum women: a randomized trial.  Am J Orthopsychiatry. 1994;64(3):468-478. doi:10.1037/h0079547PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
26.
Quinlivan  JA, Box  H, Evans  SF.  Postnatal home visits in teenage mothers: a randomised controlled trial.  Lancet. 2003;361(9361):893-900. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(03)12770-5PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
27.
Finello  KM, Litton  KM, deLemos  R, Chan  LS.  Very low birth weight infants and their families during the first year of life: comparisons of medical outcomes based on after care services.  J Perinatol. 1998;18(5):365-371.PubMedGoogle Scholar
28.
Fergusson  DM, Boden  JM, Horwood  LJ.  Nine-year follow-up of a home-visitation program: a randomized trial.  Pediatrics. 2013;131(2):297-303. doi:10.1542/peds.2012-1612PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
29.
Fergusson  DM, Grant  H, Horwood  LJ, Ridder  EM.  Randomized trial of the Early Start program of home visitation.  Pediatrics. 2005;116(6):e803-e809. doi:10.1542/peds.2005-0948PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
30.
Olds  DL, Henderson  CR  Jr, Kitzman  H.  Does prenatal and infancy nurse home visitation have enduring effects on qualities of parental caregiving and child health at 25 to 50 months of life?  Pediatrics. 1994;93(1):89-98.PubMedGoogle Scholar
31.
Olds  DL, Henderson  CR  Jr, Chamberlin  R, Tatelbaum  R.  Preventing child abuse and neglect: a randomized trial of nurse home visitation.  Pediatrics. 1986;78(1):65-78.PubMedGoogle Scholar
32.
Duggan  A, Caldera  D, Rodriguez  K, Burrell  L, Rohde  C, Crowne  SS.  Impact of a statewide home visiting program to prevent child abuse.  Child Abuse Negl. 2007;31(8):801-827. doi:10.1016/j.chiabu.2006.06.011PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
33.
Minkovitz  CS, Strobino  D, Mistry  KB,  et al.  Healthy Steps for Young Children: sustained results at 5.5 years.  Pediatrics. 2007;120(3):e658-e668. doi:10.1542/peds.2006-1205PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
34.
Caldera  D, Burrell  L, Rodriguez  K, Crowne  SS, Rohde  C, Duggan  A.  Impact of a statewide home visiting program on parenting and on child health and development.  Child Abuse Negl. 2007;31(8):829-852. doi:10.1016/j.chiabu.2007.02.008PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
35.
Bugental  DB, Schwartz  A.  A cognitive approach to child mistreatment prevention among medically at-risk infants.  Dev Psychol. 2009;45(1):284-288. doi:10.1037/a0014031PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
36.
Kitzman  H, Olds  DL, Henderson  CR  Jr,  et al.  Effect of prenatal and infancy home visitation by nurses on pregnancy outcomes, childhood injuries, and repeated childbearing: a randomized controlled trial.  JAMA. 1997;278(8):644-652. doi:10.1001/jama.1997.03550080054039PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
37.
Olds  DL, Sadler  L, Kitzman  H.  Programs for parents of infants and toddlers: recent evidence from randomized trials.  J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2007;48(3-4):355-391. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7610.2006.01702.xPubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
38.
DuMont  K, Kirkland  K, Mitchell-Herzfeld  S,  et al.  A Randomized Trial of Healthy Families New York (HFNY): Does Home Visiting Prevent Child Maltreatment? Rensselaer: State University of New York at Albany; 2010.
39.
Guyer  B, Barth  M, Bishai  D,  et al.  Healthy Steps for Young Children Program and National Evaluation Overview. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University; 2003.
40.
Kodner  C, Wetherton  A.  Diagnosis and management of physical abuse in children.  Am Fam Physician. 2013;88(10):669-675.PubMedGoogle Scholar
41.
Flaherty  EG, Stirling  J  Jr; American Academy of Pediatrics. Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect.  Clinical report—the pediatrician’s role in child maltreatment prevention.  Pediatrics. 2010;126(4):833-841. doi:10.1542/peds.2010-2087PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
US Preventive Services Task Force
Recommendation Statement
November 27, 2018

Interventions to Prevent Child Maltreatment: US Preventive Services Task Force Recommendation Statement

US Preventive Services Task Force
JAMA. 2018;320(20):2122-2128. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.17772
Abstract

Importance  In 2016, approximately 676 000 children in the United States experienced maltreatment (abuse, neglect, or both), with 75% of these children experiencing neglect, 18% experiencing physical abuse, and 8% experiencing sexual abuse. Approximately 14% of abused children experienced multiple forms of maltreatment, and more than 1700 children died as a result of maltreatment.

Objective  To update the US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) 2013 recommendation on primary care interventions to prevent child maltreatment.

Evidence Review  The USPSTF commissioned a review of the evidence on primary care interventions to prevent maltreatment in children and adolescents without signs or symptoms of maltreatment.

Findings  The USPSTF found limited and inconsistent evidence on the benefits of primary care interventions, including home visitation programs, to prevent child maltreatment and found no evidence related to the harms of such interventions. The USPSTF concludes that the evidence is insufficient to assess the balance of benefits and harms of primary care interventions to prevent child maltreatment. The level of certainty of the magnitude of the benefits and harms of these interventions is low.

Conclusions and Recommendation  The USPSTF concludes that the current evidence is insufficient to assess the balance of benefits and harms of primary care interventions to prevent child maltreatment. (I statement)

Introduction

The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) makes recommendations about the effectiveness of specific preventive care services for patients without obvious related signs or symptoms.

It bases its recommendations on the evidence of both the benefits and harms of the service and an assessment of the balance. The USPSTF does not consider the costs of providing a service in this assessment.

The USPSTF recognizes that clinical decisions involve more considerations than evidence alone. Clinicians should understand the evidence but individualize decision making to the specific patient or situation. Similarly, the USPSTF notes that policy and coverage decisions involve considerations in addition to the evidence of clinical benefits and harms.

Summary of Recommendation and Evidence

Quiz Ref IDThe USPSTF concludes that the current evidence is insufficient to assess the balance of benefits and harms of primary care interventions to prevent child maltreatment (I statement) (Figure 1).

Children with signs or symptoms suggestive of maltreatment should be assessed or reported according to the applicable state laws.

See the Clinical Considerations section for suggestions for practice regarding the I statement.

Rationale
Importance

Quiz Ref IDIn 2016, approximately 676 000 children in the United States experienced maltreatment (abuse, neglect, or both), with 75% of these children experiencing neglect, 18% experiencing physical abuse, and 8% experiencing sexual abuse. Approximately 14% of abused children experienced multiple forms of maltreatment, and more than 1700 children died as a result of maltreatment.1

Benefits of Interventions

The USPSTF found inadequate evidence that interventions initiated in primary care can prevent maltreatment among children who do not already have signs or symptoms of such maltreatment. The USPSTF deemed the evidence inadequate because of a lack of studies on accurate methods to predict a child’s individual risk of maltreatment and the limited and inconsistent report of outcomes from studies of preventive interventions for maltreatment.

Harms of Interventions

The USPSTF found inadequate evidence to assess the harms of preventive interventions for child maltreatment.

USPSTF Assessment

Evidence on interventions to prevent child maltreatment is limited and inconsistent; therefore, the USPSTF concludes that the evidence is insufficient to determine the balance of benefits and harms of interventions initiated in primary care to prevent child maltreatment in children and adolescents.

Clinical Considerations
Patient Population Under Consideration

Quiz Ref IDThis recommendation applies to children and adolescents 18 years and younger in the United States who do not have signs or symptoms of maltreatment (Figure 2). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention define child maltreatment as any act or series of acts of commission (abuse) or omission (neglect) by a parent or other caregiver (eg, clergy, coach, or teacher) that results in harm, potential for harm, or threat of harm to a child.2 Words or actions that are deliberate and cause harm, potential harm, or threat of harm are considered acts of commission (eg, physical, sexual, and psychological abuse).2 Failure to provide for a child’s basic physical, emotional, or educational needs or to protect a child from harm or potential harm constitutes an act of omission (neglect).2

Suggestions for Practice Regarding the I Statement
Potential Preventable Burden

Quiz Ref IDApproximately 676 000 US children experienced abuse or neglect in 2016.1 Of those, 1700 died as a result of that maltreatment.1 Younger children appear to be the most vulnerable, with nearly 25 per 1000 children younger than 1 year identified as having experienced maltreatment.1 Abuse and neglect can result in long-term negative physical and emotional effects. Risk factors for maltreatment in children include young age (<4 years), having special health care needs, female sex, and past history of maltreatment. Children are also at increased risk based on factors related to their caregiver or environment, including having young, single, or nonbiological parents or parents with poor educational attainment, low income, history of maltreatment, and social isolation. Additionally, living in a community with high rates of violence, high rates of unemployment, or weak social networks are linked to child maltreatment.3

The USPSTF reviewed risk assessment instruments used to identify children for whom preventive interventions might be indicated and found limited and inconsistent evidence on the validity and reliability of these tools.3-5

Potential Harms

The USPSTF found a lack of evidence on the harms associated with interventions to prevent child maltreatment. Potential harms of preventive interventions include social stigma and effects on family functioning and dynamics.

Current Practice

Because of the recommended schedule of periodic health assessments, primary care clinicians, including pediatricians, family clinicians, and others, are uniquely positioned to identify child maltreatment. The Federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act sets minimum standards for state laws overseeing the reporting of child abuse and neglect.4 Forty-eight states, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands mandate that professionals who have contact with children report suspected child maltreatment to Child Protective Services (CPS).6 An estimated 3.4 million children were referred to CPS in 20161; however, there is evidence that many cases of child abuse and neglect are not reported.7

Several factors may play a role in the underreporting of child maltreatment, including missed diagnosis of intentional child injury, fear of alienating caregivers, and stigma related to CPS involvement.8,9 Signs and symptoms of child abuse include, but are not limited to, frequent injuries or unexplained/inconsistent explanation of injury cause, signs of poor hygiene, or lack of medical care; frequent absences from school; being excessively withdrawn or fearful; unexplained changes in behavior; trouble walking or sitting; and displaying knowledge of sexual acts inappropriate for age.8,10 Preventive interventions initiated in primary care focus on preventing maltreatment before it occurs.

Interventions

Although the USPSTF found insufficient evidence to recommend for or against preventive interventions in primary care settings, several strategies for preventing child abuse and neglect have been studied. Specific interventions include primary care programs designed to identify high-risk patients and refer them to community resources, parent education to improve nurturing and increase the use of positive discipline strategies, and psychotherapy to improve caregivers’ coping skills and strengthen the parent-child relationship.3,4 These interventions are delivered in settings such as primary care clinics, schools, and the community.

Quiz Ref IDMost available research included in the evidence review is from studies of home visitation programs.3,4 These programs usually involve a professional or paraprofessional (eg, peer educator or community health worker) providing periodic counseling, educational services, or support in a family’s home. Families are identified and referred most often by health care professionals in the prenatal and immediate postpartum period. These services contain multiple components, including assessing family needs, providing information and referrals, providing clinical care, and enhancing family functioning and positive child-parent interactions.3 All states and the District of Columbia, as well as tribal and territorial entities, have home visitation programs to support families with young children. In 2017, 942 000 home visits were carried out in the United States,11 but eligibility criteria and services provided vary by location. The USPSTF reviewed evidence that included home visitation–based interventions. Although the USPSTF found insufficient evidence to assess the benefits and harms of preventing maltreatment among children without signs or symptoms of maltreatment, this recommendation does not assess the effectiveness of home visitation programs for other outcomes (eg, improving child and maternal health, encouraging positive parenting, or promoting child development) or in other situations (eg, secondary prevention of abuse and neglect).

Useful Resources

The USPSTF has issued a recommendation on screening for intimate partner violence, elder abuse, and abuse of vulnerable adults.12 The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides Web-based resources for the prevention of child abuse and neglect.13 The Administration for Children and Families offers resources on child maltreatment, including definitions, identification of signs and symptoms, and statistics.6 The Child Maternal Health Bureau and the Administration for Children and Families jointly offer resources and funding for home visitation programs.11

Other Considerations
Research Gaps and Needs

The USPSTF recognizes the importance of this serious health problem and calls for the prioritization of research to address gaps in numerous areas related to child maltreatment. There is limited evidence supporting the use of risk-assessment instruments to identify children at risk of maltreatment. Further research to determine effective methods for clinicians to identify children at increased risk should be a priority.

Although most studies included home visitation, there was significant heterogeneity in study design and outcome measurements. Standardization of outcome measurement across trials would greatly strengthen the evidence base and improve the ability to pool data. Additionally, research on home visitation should base interventions on proven and well-designed theoretical models. Without this type of contextual information, it will be difficult to interpret whether inventions are successful and, if so, how those interventions worked. When investigating interventions and outcomes, the inclusion of diverse populations and settings would help improve the applicability of study findings. These would include families with known risk factors for child maltreatment (eg, history of substance abuse in the home) and settings with limited access to social services. In addition, future research is needed to determine whether there are unintended harms from risk assessment and preventive interventions.

Discussion
Burden of Disease

Rates of maltreatment are similar for girls and boys, but younger children are more likely to experience maltreatment.1 Twenty-eight percent of maltreated children are younger than 3 years, with the highest rates among children younger than 1 year (24.8 cases per 1000 children).1 Younger children also have higher mortality rates, with nearly 70% of all fatalities related to child maltreatment occurring in children younger than 3 years.1 Children younger than 1 year fare the worst, with a case fatality rate nearly 3 times that among children aged 1 year (21.6 vs 6.5 deaths per 100 000 children).1 Some data reveal racial/ethnic disparities in the incidence of maltreatment, but it is unclear as to whether this represents true disparity or reporting bias.

Childhood experiences of maltreatment can affect child and adolescent development and have long-term effects. Child abuse and neglect are considered forms of complex trauma and are associated with many negative physical and psychological outcomes, including long-term disability, chronic pain, substance abuse, and depression.3,14

Scope of the Review

To update its 2013 recommendation,15 the USPSTF commissioned a systematic review3,4 of the evidence on interventions to prevent maltreatment in children and adolescents without signs or symptoms of maltreatment. This includes interventions delivered in the primary care setting or by referral to other resources such as home visitation programs, respite care, parent education, and family support and strengthening programs. Outcomes were characterized as direct or proxy measures. Direct measures include direct evidence of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse or neglect; reports to CPS; and removal of the child from the home. Proxy measures include injuries with a high specificity of abuse, visits to the emergency department or hospital, and failure to provide for the child’s medical needs. Other measures reviewed include social, emotional, and developmental outcomes. The review focused on primary prevention; evidence on interventions in children with signs or symptoms of maltreatment or known exposure to child maltreatment is outside the scope of work of the USPSTF.

Effectiveness of Preventive Interventions

The USPSTF reviewed studies of children without signs or symptoms of maltreatment who received interventions to prevent child maltreatment delivered in or referred from primary care. The main outcomes were reduced exposure to maltreatment; improved behavioral, emotional, mental, or physical well-being; and reduced mortality. The USPSTF reviewed a total of 22 randomized clinical trials (from 33 publications) of good or fair quality. Of those 22 trials, 12 were included in the 2013 review and 10 were newly identified. There were several similarities in study characteristics across the 22 included trials, including the mother’s age (≥20 years) (15 trials), usual-care comparator (19 trials), US setting (16 trials), and, similar to the 2013 review, a home visitation component (21 trials).3,4

Although most trials featured home visits, the components of the interventions varied by content, personnel, intensity, duration, and use of other supporting elements. Fifteen of the 21 home visitation trials used clinical personnel in some capacity. These personnel included nurses (7 trials), mental health professionals (2 trials), paraprofessionals (4 trials), and peer home visitors (1 trial).3 The remaining trials did not specify the training of the home visitors. Of the 21 home visitation trials, 8 featured home visits as the sole intervention.3 Other associated components varied considerably but included transportation services, written materials, parent education and support groups, screening and referral services, and clinical care coordination. The duration of interventions varied from 3 months to 3 years, and the number of planned sessions ranged from 5 to 41.3

Overall, evidence on the effect of interventions did not demonstrate benefit, or outcomes were mixed. Fourteen trials provided results on CPS reports and actions and included data collected during, at the end of, or within a year of completion of the intervention.3 Of the 10 studies included in the pooled analysis, there was no significant difference between intervention and control groups (pooled odds ratio [OR], 0.94 [95% CI, 0.72-1.23]).3 Trials reporting additional results within 6 months or 1 year of the initial results also showed no significant difference between groups. Long-term follow-up (2.5 to 13.0 years after initial results) yielded mixed results, with 2 trials16-19 reporting statistically significant differences and 1 reporting no difference.20

Five trials reported on removal of the child from the home.21-26 Four trials were included in the pooled analysis, which measured results ranging from 12 months to 3 years after intervention. There was no significant difference between study groups (pooled OR, 1.09 [95% CI, 0.16 to 7.28]).3 The fifth trial not included in the pooled results reported removal at birth.25 This trial showed a nonsignificant effect for the intervention group compared with the control group (OR, 1.55 [95% CI, 0.61-3.94]).25

The evidence review demonstrated mixed results for several outcomes. Outcomes related to emergency department visits and hospitalizations were reported in 11 and 12 trials, respectively.3 Pooled analyses were not performed because of variation in outcome definitions and follow-up periods. Statistically significant reductions in all-cause hospitalization, average number of hospital days, and rates of admission were demonstrated in a minority of trials.27-30 However, most studies of hospitalization-related outcomes showed no difference between study groups.3 Evidence was also inconsistent on the effects of emergency department visits. Only 2 studies that reported outcomes within 2 years of intervention noted statistically significant reductions in the average number of all-cause emergency department visits.31,32 Long-term results (>4 years of follow-up) noted statistically significant reductions in emergency department visits in 1 of 2 studies.30,33 Other outcomes with mixed results included internalizing (depression or anxiety) and externalizing (disruptive, aggressive, or delinquent) behavioral outcomes (3/6 trials reported statistically significant reductions in reported behaviors),16,28,29,32,34 child development (1/7 trials reported statistically significant improvements in developmental outcomes),34 and other measures of abuse and neglect (1/2 trials reported statistically significant reductions in abuse and neglect findings).35

Many of the outcomes reviewed by the USPSTF had limited evidence. Four trials reported on child mortality, all with follow-up between 6 months and 9 years.21,24,26,36,37 Variations in timing and outcome specifications did not allow for pooled analysis. None of the mortality outcomes reported reached statistical significance,21,26,36,37 although 1 trial did report higher mortality rates in the intervention group.24 Five studies evaluated social, emotional, and other developmental outcomes16,21,22,33,37-39; all reported nonsignificant differences between study groups. One study reported on mental development at 24 months as well as school performance at 9 years and showed no statistically significant difference between control and intervention groups.36,37 Trials that reported outcomes for failure to thrive (1 trial), injuries with a high specificity for abuse or neglect (1 trial), and failure to immunize (1 trial) all failed to demonstrate improvement in the intervention groups.24,26

No trials reported on harms of interventions to prevent child maltreatment.

Estimate of Magnitude of Net Benefit

Overall, the USPSTF found limited and inconsistent evidence on the benefits of primary care interventions to prevent child maltreatment. It found no evidence related to the harms of primary care interventions to prevent child maltreatment. The USPSTF concludes that the evidence is insufficient to assess the balance of benefits and harms of primary care interventions to prevent child maltreatment. The level of certainty of the magnitude of the benefits and harms of these interventions is low.

Response to Public Comment

A draft version of this recommendation statement was posted for public comment on the USPSTF website from May 22 to June 18, 2018. Several comments expressed concern that studies of other interventions (such as the Safe Environment for Every Kid [SEEK] model) were not adequately reviewed by the USPSTF. The USPSTF reviewed all suggested studies and found that they did not meet eligibility requirements for inclusion, primarily because the studies were rated as poor quality or did not report eligible outcomes. Studies that included the SEEK model were included in the sensitivity analysis but did not change outcomes. Comments also voiced concern about the accuracy of disparities statistics, noting that racial biases can affect reporting of child maltreatment. The USPSTF revised the recommendation in response to these comments. Comments noted that the USPSTF conflated the potential harms of primary prevention of maltreatment with harms associated with reporting maltreatment. The USPSTF revised the language to reflect only potential harms associated with preventive interventions. In addition, some comments asked for clarification about the clinician’s role in preventing child maltreatment. The USPSTF recognizes the important role clinicians play in identifying and reporting child maltreatment. The Current Practice section indicates that this recommendation applies to children who do not have signs or symptoms of maltreatment and that professionals and caregivers are obligated by law to report suspected child maltreatment. The USPSTF also made changes to the Summary of Recommendation and Evidence section to emphasize this point.

Update of Previous USPSTF Recommendation

In 2013, the USPSTF found insufficient evidence to assess the balance of benefits and harms of primary care interventions to prevent child maltreatment. The current recommendation reaffirms this position.

Recommendations of Others

There are varying recommendations related to the primary prevention of child maltreatment. In 2013, the American Academy of Family Physicians concluded that the current evidence is insufficient to assess the balance of benefits and harms of primary care interventions to prevent child maltreatment.40 The American Academy of Pediatrics has no recommendations on preventive interventions but strongly recommends clinician involvement in preventing child maltreatment and provides guidance and information on risk factors, protective factors, and clinical management.8,41

Back to top
Article Information

Corresponding Author: Susan J. Curry, PhD, The University of Iowa, 111 Jessup Hall, Iowa City, IA 52242 (chair@uspstf.net).

The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) Members: Susan J. Curry, PhD; Alex H. Krist, MD, MPH; Douglas K. Owens, MD, MS; Michael J. Barry, MD; Aaron B. Caughey, MD, PhD; Karina W. Davidson, PhD, MASc; Chyke A. Doubeni, MD, MPH; John W. Epling Jr, MD, MSEd; David C. Grossman, MD, MPH; Alex R. Kemper, MD, MPH, MS; Martha Kubik, PhD, RN; C. Seth Landefeld, MD; Carol M. Mangione, MD, MSPH; Michael Silverstein, MD, MPH; Melissa A. Simon, MD, MPH; Chien-Wen Tseng, MD, MPH, MSEE; John B. Wong, MD.

Affiliations of The US Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) Members: University of Iowa, Iowa City (Curry); Fairfax Family Practice Residency, Fairfax, Virginia (Krist); Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond (Krist); Veterans Affairs Palo Alto Health Care System, Palo Alto, California (Owens); Stanford University, Stanford, California (Owens); Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts (Barry); Oregon Health & Science University, Portland (Caughey); Columbia University, New York, New York (Davidson); University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia (Doubeni); Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, Roanoke (Epling); Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute, Seattle (Grossman); Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Columbus, Ohio (Kemper); Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (Kubik); University of Alabama at Birmingham (Landefeld); University of California, Los Angeles (Mangione); Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts (Silverstein); Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois (Simon); University of Hawaii, Honolulu (Tseng); Pacific Health Research and Education Institute, Honolulu, Hawaii (Tseng); Tufts University, Medford, Massachusetts (Wong).

Author Contributions: Dr Curry had full access to all of the data in the study and takes responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis. The USPSTF members contributed equally to the recommendation statement.

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: Authors followed the policy regarding conflicts of interest described at https://www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org/Page/Name/conflict-of-interest-disclosures. All members of the USPSTF receive travel reimbursement and an honorarium for participating in USPSTF meetings. Dr Barry reported receiving grants and personal fees from Healthwise, a nonprofit, outside the submitted work. Dr Doubeni reported being an author for UpToDate and serving as director of a Health Resources and Services Administration center on training in integrated behavioral health in primary care, outside the submitted work. No other disclosures were reported.

Funding/Support: The USPSTF is an independent, voluntary body. The US Congress mandates that the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) support the operations of the USPSTF.

Role of the Funder/Sponsor: AHRQ staff assisted in the following: development and review of the research plan, commission of the systematic evidence review from an Evidence-based Practice Center, coordination of expert review and public comment of the draft evidence report and draft recommendation statement, and the writing and preparation of the final recommendation statement and its submission for publication. AHRQ staff had no role in the approval of the final recommendation statement or the decision to submit for publication.

Disclaimer: Recommendations made by the USPSTF are independent of the US government. They should not be construed as an official position of AHRQ or the US Department of Health and Human Services.

Additional Contributions: We thank Justin Mills, MD, MPH (AHRQ), who contributed to the writing of the manuscript, and Lisa Nicolella, MA (AHRQ), who assisted with coordination and editing.

References
1.
US Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children, Youth, and Families, Children’s Bureau. Child maltreatment 2016. https://www.acf.hhs.gov/cb/resource/child-maltreatment-2016. Published February 1, 2018. Accessed October 11, 2018.
2.
Leeb  RT, Paulozzi  LJ, Melanson  C, Simon  TR, Arias  I.  Child Maltreatment Surveillance: Uniform Definitions for Public Health and Recommended Data Elements. Version 1.0. Atlanta: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control; 2008.
3.
Viswanathan  M, Fraser  JG, Pan  H,  et al.  Primary Care Interventions to Prevent Child Maltreatment: An Evidence Review for the US Preventive Services Task Force: Evidence Synthesis No. 170. Rockville, MD: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality; 2018. AHRQ publication 18-05241-EF-1.
4.
Child Welfare Information Gateway.  About CAPTA: A Legislative History. Washington, DC: US Department of Health and Human Services; 2017.
5.
Viswanathan  M, Fraser  JG, Pan  H,  et al.  Primary care interventions to prevent child maltreament: updated evidence report and systematic review for the US Preventive Services Task Force  [published November 27, 2018]. JAMA. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.17647
6.
Child Welfare Information Gateway.  Definitions of Child Abuse and Neglect. Washington, DC: US Department of Health and Human Services; 2014.
7.
Sedlak  AJ, Mettenburg  J, Basena  M,  et al.  Fourth National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect (NIS–4): Report to Congress, Executive Summary. Washington, DC: US Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families; 2010.
8.
Christian  CW; Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect, American Academy of Pediatrics.  The evaluation of suspected child physical abuse.  Pediatrics. 2015;135(5):e1337-e1354. doi:10.1542/peds.2015-0356PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
9.
Flaherty  EG, Jones  R, Sege  R; Child Abuse Recognition Experience Study Research Group.  Telling their stories: primary care practitioners’ experience evaluating and reporting injuries caused by child abuse.  Child Abuse Negl. 2004;28(9):939-945. doi:10.1016/j.chiabu.2004.03.013PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
10.
Child Welfare Information Gateway.  What Is Child Abuse and Neglect? Recognizing the Signs and Symptoms. Washington, DC: US Department of Health and Human Services; 2013.
11.
Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), Maternal and Child Health Bureau. Home visiting. HRSA webite. https://mchb.hrsa.gov/maternal-child-health-initiatives/home-visiting-overview. Accessed October 11, 2018.
12.
Moyer  VA; U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.  Screening for intimate partner violence and abuse of elderly and vulnerable adults: U.S. preventive services task force recommendation statement.  Ann Intern Med. 2013;158(6):478-486. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-158-6-201303190-00588PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
13.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Child abuse and neglect prevention. CDC website. https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/childabuseandneglect/index.html. Updated April 10, 2018. Accessed October 11, 2018.
14.
National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN). Complex trauma. NCTSN website. https://www.nctsn.org/what-is-child-trauma/trauma-types/complex-trauma. NCTSN website. Accessed October 11, 2018.
15.
Moyer  VA; U.S. Preventive Services Task Force.  Primary care interventions to prevent child maltreatment: U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendation statement.  Ann Intern Med. 2013;159(4):289-295. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-159-4-201308200-00667PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
16.
Lowell  DI, Carter  AS, Godoy  L, Paulicin  B, Briggs-Gowan  MJ.  A randomized controlled trial of Child FIRST: a comprehensive home-based intervention translating research into early childhood practice.  Child Dev. 2011;82(1):193-208. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8624.2010.01550.xPubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
17.
Olds  DL, Eckenrode  J, Henderson  CR  Jr,  et al.  Long-term effects of home visitation on maternal life course and child abuse and neglect: fifteen-year follow-up of a randomized trial.  JAMA. 1997;278(8):637-643. doi:10.1001/jama.1997.03550080047038PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
18.
Eckenrode  J, Ganzel  B, Henderson  CR  Jr,  et al.  Preventing child abuse and neglect with a program of nurse home visitation: the limiting effects of domestic violence.  JAMA. 2000;284(11):1385-1391. doi:10.1001/jama.284.11.1385PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
19.
Zielinski  DS, Eckenrode  J, Olds  DL.  Nurse home visitation and the prevention of child maltreatment: impact on the timing of official reports.  Dev Psychopathol. 2009;21(2):441-453. doi:10.1017/S0954579409000248PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
20.
DuMont  K, Mitchell-Herzfeld  S, Greene  R,  et al.  Healthy Families New York (HFNY) randomized trial: effects on early child abuse and neglect.  Child Abuse Negl. 2008;32(3):295-315. doi:10.1016/j.chiabu.2007.07.007PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
21.
Barlow  J, Davis  H, McIntosh  E, Jarrett  P, Mockford  C, Stewart-Brown  S.  Role of home visiting in improving parenting and health in families at risk of abuse and neglect: results of a multicentre randomised controlled trial and economic evaluation.  Arch Dis Child. 2007;92(3):229-233. doi:10.1136/adc.2006.095117PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
22.
McIntosh  E, Barlow  J, Davis  H, Stewart-Brown  S.  Economic evaluation of an intensive home visiting programme for vulnerable families: a cost-effectiveness analysis of a public health intervention.  J Public Health (Oxf). 2009;31(3):423-433. doi:10.1093/pubmed/fdp047PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
23.
Brayden  RM, Altemeier  WA, Dietrich  MS,  et al.  A prospective study of secondary prevention of child maltreatment.  J Pediatr. 1993;122(4):511-516. doi:10.1016/S0022-3476(05)83528-0PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
24.
Brooten  D, Kumar  S, Brown  LP,  et al.  A randomized clinical trial of early hospital discharge and home follow-up of very-low-birth-weight infants.  N Engl J Med. 1986;315(15):934-939. doi:10.1056/NEJM198610093151505PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
25.
Marcenko  MO, Spence  M.  Home visitation services for at-risk pregnant and postpartum women: a randomized trial.  Am J Orthopsychiatry. 1994;64(3):468-478. doi:10.1037/h0079547PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
26.
Quinlivan  JA, Box  H, Evans  SF.  Postnatal home visits in teenage mothers: a randomised controlled trial.  Lancet. 2003;361(9361):893-900. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(03)12770-5PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
27.
Finello  KM, Litton  KM, deLemos  R, Chan  LS.  Very low birth weight infants and their families during the first year of life: comparisons of medical outcomes based on after care services.  J Perinatol. 1998;18(5):365-371.PubMedGoogle Scholar
28.
Fergusson  DM, Boden  JM, Horwood  LJ.  Nine-year follow-up of a home-visitation program: a randomized trial.  Pediatrics. 2013;131(2):297-303. doi:10.1542/peds.2012-1612PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
29.
Fergusson  DM, Grant  H, Horwood  LJ, Ridder  EM.  Randomized trial of the Early Start program of home visitation.  Pediatrics. 2005;116(6):e803-e809. doi:10.1542/peds.2005-0948PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
30.
Olds  DL, Henderson  CR  Jr, Kitzman  H.  Does prenatal and infancy nurse home visitation have enduring effects on qualities of parental caregiving and child health at 25 to 50 months of life?  Pediatrics. 1994;93(1):89-98.PubMedGoogle Scholar
31.
Olds  DL, Henderson  CR  Jr, Chamberlin  R, Tatelbaum  R.  Preventing child abuse and neglect: a randomized trial of nurse home visitation.  Pediatrics. 1986;78(1):65-78.PubMedGoogle Scholar
32.
Duggan  A, Caldera  D, Rodriguez  K, Burrell  L, Rohde  C, Crowne  SS.  Impact of a statewide home visiting program to prevent child abuse.  Child Abuse Negl. 2007;31(8):801-827. doi:10.1016/j.chiabu.2006.06.011PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
33.
Minkovitz  CS, Strobino  D, Mistry  KB,  et al.  Healthy Steps for Young Children: sustained results at 5.5 years.  Pediatrics. 2007;120(3):e658-e668. doi:10.1542/peds.2006-1205PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
34.
Caldera  D, Burrell  L, Rodriguez  K, Crowne  SS, Rohde  C, Duggan  A.  Impact of a statewide home visiting program on parenting and on child health and development.  Child Abuse Negl. 2007;31(8):829-852. doi:10.1016/j.chiabu.2007.02.008PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
35.
Bugental  DB, Schwartz  A.  A cognitive approach to child mistreatment prevention among medically at-risk infants.  Dev Psychol. 2009;45(1):284-288. doi:10.1037/a0014031PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
36.
Kitzman  H, Olds  DL, Henderson  CR  Jr,  et al.  Effect of prenatal and infancy home visitation by nurses on pregnancy outcomes, childhood injuries, and repeated childbearing: a randomized controlled trial.  JAMA. 1997;278(8):644-652. doi:10.1001/jama.1997.03550080054039PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
37.
Olds  DL, Sadler  L, Kitzman  H.  Programs for parents of infants and toddlers: recent evidence from randomized trials.  J Child Psychol Psychiatry. 2007;48(3-4):355-391. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7610.2006.01702.xPubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
38.
DuMont  K, Kirkland  K, Mitchell-Herzfeld  S,  et al.  A Randomized Trial of Healthy Families New York (HFNY): Does Home Visiting Prevent Child Maltreatment? Rensselaer: State University of New York at Albany; 2010.
39.
Guyer  B, Barth  M, Bishai  D,  et al.  Healthy Steps for Young Children Program and National Evaluation Overview. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University; 2003.
40.
Kodner  C, Wetherton  A.  Diagnosis and management of physical abuse in children.  Am Fam Physician. 2013;88(10):669-675.PubMedGoogle Scholar
41.
Flaherty  EG, Stirling  J  Jr; American Academy of Pediatrics. Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect.  Clinical report—the pediatrician’s role in child maltreatment prevention.  Pediatrics. 2010;126(4):833-841. doi:10.1542/peds.2010-2087PubMedGoogle ScholarCrossref
×