In-Depth Interview Study of Human Service Professionals

Alliance members are currently interviewing human service professionals around the country about their experience observing parents engage in sub-optimal parenting. The focus of the interview is on how the professionals respond to these very common and troubling situations, whether and how they intervene, how the parents respond to the intervention, and what kinds of supports and resources they need to feel more effective in their efforts to support parents and protect children.


Content Analysis of Parenting Information on Social Media

The research sub-committee of the PM Alliance is currently developing a study in order to determine the variety and quality of parenting information available on the internet. A systematic analysis will be undertaken of parenting advice available through active internet searches as well as through passive exposure. Content related to corporal punishment, psychological maltreatment, and positive parenting will be examined in order to understand how accurate this information is.






Rates of Psychological Maltreatment

Psychological maltreatment (PM) is equivalent in harm to other forms of child maltreatment. Nonetheless, it is not included in all US State child abuse statutes. Moreover, past research using the National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System identified 300-480-fold differences in substantiated cases across US States. In this study, US State statutes were coded and compared with reported rates of other forms of child maltreatment in the 2014 and 1998 NCANDS data sets.   For 2014, the difference in reported rates of PM between the State with the lowest rate and the State with the highest rate was 523-fold which was much higher than for physical (30-fold) and sexual abuse (20-fold) but not neglect (524-fold).  Analysis of the wording of the Statutes found that many still use the term “mental injury” from the original Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA, 1974) and two thirds do not define it.  Reported rates of PM in NCANDS were not correlated with whether PM was defined in the statute but when a harm standard was present, reported rates were statistically lower.  Almost 70% of statutes included a newly added category (e.g., sexual/human trafficking) demonstrating a willingness by States to amend statutes. A common, reliable definition of PM (and other forms of maltreatment) in CAPTA, NCANDS, and US State statutes is necessary for the US to have a surveillance system that allows for the assessment of the effects of policies on reported rates of all forms of maltreatment. Baker, A.J.L. & Brassard, M.R. (in press). Predictors of variation in state reported rates of psychological maltreatment: A survey of U.S. statutes and a call for change. Two peer-reviewed publications have been written based on the findings from this study, one published in Child Abuse & Neglect and the other in the APSAC Advisor.

Survey of NYC Child Welfare Training Departments

Children who have been removed from home due to maltreatment are highly likely to have been exposed to psychological maltreatment. Reducing the use of PM behaviors by parents must be a significant component of any efforts to protect children from continued maltreatment and promote their well-being. Ensuring that maltreated children are not experiencing (or re-experiencing) psychological maltreatment by their birth parents or foster parents is (or should be) an essential component of their case plan. For this reason, staff, clients, and consumers involved in the child welfare system could all benefit from information about what psychological maltreatment is, how damaging it is for children, and what kinds of parenting behaviors should be used as alternatives. A survey was conducted of training on the topic of PM offered to birth parents, foster parents, and caseworker staff within one city's child welfare agencies. Response rate was 94%. About half of the agencies reported providing PM training to birth parents, about 60% reported doing so for foster parents and for case workers. About 60% of the people surveyed reported that they felt that PM was a very important topic and only 24% reported being very knowledgeable about the topic. It is clear that the data reveal many avenues for improvement with respect to educating staff and consumers about this form of child maltreatment. A paper is currently in preparation.

Survey of APSAC Membership

A study has been launched to survey members of APSAC about their knowledge of and attitudes towards psychological maltreatment. Pilot face validity studies identified a set of parenting behaviors that cover a range of types and severity levels of PM behaviors, including behaviors that could be considered "poor parenting" but not PM. Participants rate these behaviors both with respect to whether they believe it is PM and whether and under what circumstances they would make a child protection report based on the behavior. Additional items on the survey assess respondents' perception of likely outcomes of PM, how they advise parents about PM, their training on the topic, and other items assessed in Taylor et al (2017) regarding corporal punishment. Two peer-reviewed publications have been written based on the findings from this study, one published in Child Abuse and Neglect and other in Child Welfare.