Relationships heal: Reducing harsh parenting and child abuse potential with relationship-based parent-infant home visiting

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Children and Youth Services Review


Background: Childhood maltreatment and harsh parenting can have lasting effects on young children's development, and home visiting interventions provide critical opportunities to mitigate this risk. Objective: This study aimed to examine associations between participation in the Michigan Model of Infant Mental Health Home Visiting (IMH-HV) and both harsh parenting and child abuse potential. Participants and Setting: Participants were 76 mothers and their infants/toddlers (M age = 9.9 months at baseline) receiving IMH-HV with Community Mental Health Service Provider agencies in Michigan. Methods: Data were collected at baseline (shortly after initiation of services), and 3, 6, 9, and 12 months post baseline assessment. Mothers provided demographic information and completed several questionnaire measures including the Brief Child Abuse Potential Inventory (BCAP). Harsh parenting was rated by a trained research assistant using subscales from the Home Observation of Measurement of the Environment (HOME). Treatment dosage was collected from IMH-HV clinicians. Results: Mothers with higher numbers of IMH-HV visits showed lower levels of observed harsh parenting over the three time points in the study (estimate = 0.050, p = 0.002) and higher cumulative societal factors associated with oppression (SFAO) predicted higher harsh parenting over the three time points. A higher number of IMH-HV visits also predicted lower child abuse potential across the time points of the study (estimate = −0.78, p = 0.043), controlling for SFAO. Conclusions: Participation in the Michigan Model of IMH-HV, delivered in the community, is associated with reductions in both harsh parenting and child abuse potential.

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