- Risk assessment of parents' concerns at 18 months in preventive child health care predicted child abuse and neglect
- Child Abuse & Neglect
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- Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences (FMG)
- Research Institute of Child Development and Education (RICDE)
Objective: As child maltreatment has a major impact, prevention and early detection of parenting problems are of great importance. We have developed a structured interview which uses parents’ concerns for a joint needs assessment by parents and a child health care nurse, followed by a professional judgment on the risk level of future parenting and developmental problems: the Structured Problem Analysis of Raising Kids (SPARK). Previous results have shown that the risk assessment of the SPARK is associated with risk factors for child maltreatment. This study reports the predictive value of the SPARK for reports on high impact parenting problems and child abuse and neglect.
Method: Cross-sectional study with a 1.5-year follow-up based on 1,850 18-month old children, living in Zeeland, a province of the Netherlands. Data on the SPARK were obtained in the period of June 2007 to March 2008. Outcomes of the SPARK were in October 2009 compared to reports of the Advice and Reporting Centers for Child Abuse and Neglect (ARCAN) and Youth Care Agency (YCA). Univariate and multivariate logistic regression analysis was done using the risk assessment, parents’ concerns, the perceived need for support and known risk factors as predictors.
Results: The overall risk assessment of the SPARK is the strongest predictor for reports to ARCAN and YCA in the 1.5 years after completing the SPARK (odds ratio of high versus low risk: 16.3 [95% confidence interval: 5.2-50.8]. Controlling for the risk assessment, only the sum of known risk factors and an unemployed father remained as significant predictors. The reported groups differ significantly from the children without a report with regard to family characteristics, but not with regard to child characteristics.
Conclusions: A structured assessment of the concerns and care needs of toddlers’ parents by a child health care nurse is a valuable predictor of reports on child abuse and neglect and serious parenting problems in toddlers.
Practical implications: Systematically exploring and evaluating parental concerns with an instrument like the SPARK can contribute to the early recognition of families at risk for major child rearing problems.
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