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Child Abuse and Neglect: Prevention Strategies

Child abuse and neglect are serious problems that can have lasting harmful effects on its victims. The goal in preventing child abuse and neglect is clear—to stop this violence from happening in the first place. Safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments for all children and families can prevent abuse and help all children reach their full potential.

Child abuse and neglect are complex problems rooted in unhealthy relationships and environments. Preventing child abuse and neglect requires a comprehensive approach that influences all levels of the social ecology (including the societal culture), community involvement, relationships among families and neighbors, and individual behaviors. Effective prevention strategies focus on modifying policies, practices, and societal norms to create safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments.

CDC’s technical package for preventing child abuse and neglect [PDF 3.69MB] identifies a number of strategies to help states and communities prioritize prevention activities based on the best available evidence. These strategies range from a focus on individuals, families, and relationships, to broader community and societal change. This range of strategies is needed to better address the interplay between individual-family behavior and broader neighborhood, community, and cultural contexts. Strategies and their corresponding approaches are presented in the table below.

Preventing Child Abuse and Neglect

Strategy Approach

Strengthen economic supports to families

  • Strengthening household financial security
  • Family-friendly work policies

Change social norms to support parents and positive parenting

  • Public engagement and education campaigns
  • Legislative approaches to reduce corporal punishment
Provide quality care and education early in life
  • Preschool enrichment with family engagement
  • Improved quality of child care through licensing and accreditation

Enhance parenting skills to promote healthy child development

  • Early childhood home visitation
  • Parenting skill and family relationship approaches
Intervene to lessen harms and prevent future risk
  • Enhanced primary care
  • Behavioral parent training programs
  • Treatment to lessen harms of abuse and neglect exposure
  • Treatment to prevent problem behavior and later involvement in violence

Additional information on child abuse and neglect prevention strategies, approaches and corresponding evidence can be found in Preventing Child Abuse & Neglect: A Technical Package for Policy, Norm, and Programmatic Activities [PDF 3.69MB].

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Guidelines and Planning Tools

  • Essentials for Childhood [PDF 5.5MB]  proposes strategies communities can consider to promote the types of relationships and environments that help children grow up to be healthy and productive citizens so that they, in turn, can build stronger and safer families and communities for their children.
  • Essentials for Parenting Toddlers and Preschoolers is a free, online resource developed by CDC’s Division of Violence Prevention. It provides information about what parents can do to build a positive, healthy relationship with their child.
  • Understanding Evidence is an interactive Web resource that CDC’s Division of Violence Prevention developed to support public health practitioners in making evidence-informed decisions around violence prevention.
  • EvaluACTION is designed for people interested in learning about program evaluation and how to apply it to their work.
  • Principles of Prevention is an online training or you to learn how to apply key concepts of primary prevention, the public health approach, and the social-ecological model to your violence prevention work.
  • Developing and Sustaining Prevention Programs on the Child Welfare Information Gateway website provides resources on developing a prevention program, conducting a community needs assessment, funding, collaborating, evaluating program effectiveness, and building community support.

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Reviews of Effective and Promising Programs

  • California Evidence-based Clearinghouse for Child Welfare
    This organization provides online access to information about evidence-based child welfare practices in a simple, straightforward format. The effectiveness of these practices is supported by empirical research.
  • Community Guide
    This guide provides systematic reviews of interventions, including home visitation programs like Nurse-Family Partnerships.
  • Child Welfare Information Gateway
    This site connects child welfare and related professionals to comprehensive information and resources to help protect children and strengthen families.
  • Promising Practices Network
    This network provides summaries of effective programs and issue briefs summarizing current research related to child well-being, including their physical and mental health, academic success, and economic security.
  • World Report on Violence and Health
    This report is the first comprehensive review of violence on a global scale. Chapter 3 [PDF 176KB] provides detailed information about child abuse and neglect, including prevention strategies.

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