Child-abuse prevention programs would be more effective if they simultaneously take on the many kinds of domestic violence, such as partner abuse, sibling violence and elder abuse, said presenters at a Div. 37 (Child, Youth and Family Services)-sponsored session at APA's 2006 Annual Convention. Why? Victims of family violence can become perpetrators. In fact, between 42 and 60 percent of parents who abuse children also abuse-or are abused by-their partners, noted psychologist Mary Ann Dutton, PhD, a professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University School of Medicine. And abused children often act violently toward their siblings, she said.
"We simply know that there's a lot of co-occurrence, and it's time to stop looking at one or the other. It's time to look at both," Dutton said.
What's more, child abuse and other forms of family violence share risk factors, explained psychologist Patrick H. Tolan, PhD, director of the Institute for Juvenile Research at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Low socioeconomic status, gang membership and the absence of resources like health care and education are some such liabilities, according to his research.
"Violence is dependent on a number of converging factors," Tolan said. "The good news is that means there are probably a lot of opportunities to keep people from becoming violent."
Taking advantage of those opportunities will require that researchers, practitioners and policy-makers collaborate to develop interventions that target multiple forms of family violence, noted psychologist Janet Saul, PhD, chief of the Prevention Development and Evaluation Branch of the Division of Violence Prevention at the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control-part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
"CDC is poising itself to think of all of its issues in a linked way," Saul noted. "I really feel like we are at the tipping point."
One challenge is that Congress and other funding sources often earmark money for particular causes, such as child abuse, Saul noted. However, the CDC has overcome this by pulling together funding from different sources for large integrated projects, she said.
Educating adults about violence prevention and promoting good parenting can also prevent child abuse, noted Gwendolyn P. Keita, PhD, executive director of APA's Public Interest Directorate, who pointed toward APA's Adults and Children Together (ACT) Against Violence campaign as a model for that kind of work. (For more information, visit www.actagainstviolence.org.)