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Reducing the risk of child maltreatment through the Early Head Start program

Lindsay E Asawa, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Due to the destructive impact of child maltreatment and limited available funding to address its consequences, the value of preventive measures is evident. A broad class of prevention programs that vary in their settings and goals, known as Early Childhood Intervention Programs (ECIPs), provide excellent opportunities to prevent and identify cases of child maltreatment. A federally funded home-based ECIP, the Early Head Start program, was examined in this study. The primary objectives of the proposed study were (a) to examine the need for preventing child maltreatment through the Early Head Start program, (b) to examine child maltreatment risk factors at various levels of a developmental-ecological framework, (c) to examine the impact of the Early Head Start program and its components in reducing the risk of child maltreatment over time, and (d) to examine the risk factors that contribute to program attrition. Results demonstrate that the Early Head Start program includes families characterized by significant child maltreatment risk factors across all levels of analysis. Across all analyses, families in this sample who spoke English as their primary language and children with caregivers who were not biological parents were more at risk for a history of child maltreatment and program attrition. Risk factors that were most predictive of maltreatment history were caregiver history of abuse, domestic violence in the home, and significant parenting concerns. However, each level of risk factors was significantly predictive of maltreatment history above and beyond demographic characteristics. Early Head Start services were predictive of a reduction in only two risk factors, namely food and nutrition concerns and social support concerns. Families receiving more intensive services were also the families more likely to report new indications of child maltreatment over time. Finally, results revealed that families with lower incomes and no indications of poverty were more likely to drop out of the program prematurely. Limitations of the study and suggestions for future research are discussed, as well as recommendations for improving child maltreatment prevention through the Early Head Start program and other home-based ECIPs. ^

Subject Area

Education, Early Childhood|Psychology, Clinical

Recommended Citation

Asawa, Lindsay E, "Reducing the risk of child maltreatment through the Early Head Start program" (2008). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3303505.