Child Abuse Interventions

Interventions with Children

Background

One approach to decrease risk of abuse, including abduction by strangers, is to directly teach children about how to resist abuse or abduction. There have been a number of studies of these types of programs. None examine the effect of the program on actual abuse or abduction. We have chosen to review only those interventions where there has been an evaluation of changes in observed behavior and have not included any studies in which the only intervention is a change in knowledge or attitudes.


Review of interventions with children:

Author

Poche et al., 1988

Study design and target population

RCT

USA; 74 kindergarten and first grade students (ages 5-7); 26% black, 74% white; low, middle and upper income schools in Michigan

Intervention

Randomized to: video training of how to deal with strangers and avoid abduction; video plus behavior rehearsal; live presentation by trainer; no training

Outcomes

1-2 days after training research assistant approached children and tried to get them to go in a car

Results

Percent of children who ran away from research assistant posing as abductor: 74% in video plus rehearsal, 47% in video only; 13% in live trainer; 0% in control group. OR for going with stranger, compared to control groups: video+rehearsal = 0.04 (0.00-0.28);

video only = 0.09 (0.02-0.48);

live teacher = 0.26 (.05-1.30)

Study quality and conclusions

This was a RCT. While it did not have real life data, it did have a reasonable scenario which showed that both video only and video plus rehearsal were effective in decreasing the risk that young children would go into a car with a stranger.

Since the post-test observations were done 1-2 days after the intervention, it is unknown how long the effect will last.



Author

Fryer et al., 1987

Study design and target population

RCT

USA

48 kindergarten and first grade students in a Denver school

Intervention

8 day block of instruction, 20 minutes each day focusing on stranger abduction. No intervention in control group.

Outcomes

Research assistant tired to get child into a car

Results

22% of intervention group and 48% of control group agreed to go with the stranger. OR=0.31 (0.07-1.34)

Study quality and conclusions

Although the study suggests an effect, it was non-significant.

Summary of interventions with children

The studies reviewed suggest that educational programs aimed at children can decrease the risk of stranger abduction. However, these conclusions are tempered by the fact that the Poche study evaluated the impact only 1-2 days after the intervention. The results of the Fryer study are limited by small sample sizes. Both studies are also limited by the fact that they use mock situations to test the effectiveness of the intervention.

Recommendations on interventions with children

The impact of these interventions on physical abuse is unknown and therefore cannot be recommended at this time. These interventions appear more appropriate for the prevention of sexual abuse.

Recommendations for future research

There is a need to evaluate these interventions in larger populations and to test whether the effect persists over time.