Preventing Child Maltreatment by Caregivers

The application of corporal discipline has diverse negative influences, including teaching the child to resolve conflicts with physical aggression and causing severe emotional suffering stemming from the fear of new punishment and disappointing the parent. Therefore, condoning corporate punishment, even if it is supposed to improve the child’s social potential and control aggression levels, is argued to be opening the door to child abuse (Kail & Cavanaugh, 2019). Non-severe physical punishments, for instance, spanking, cannot be implemented responsibly and relatively harmfully. Current brain imaging research suggests that spanking, even if used sporadically, intensifies children’s responses to fearful stimuli (Knopf, 2021). Based on this, even the slightest forms of corporal discipline measures could promote unwanted long-term effects, such as fearfulness, affecting children’s social interactions.

The degree to which early interventions aimed at both children and parents are effective in the following years depends on the program’s duration and the selection of components. As for the first circumstance, in Reynolds and Robertson’s study, the incidence of child maltreatment was reduced for families with two or more years of regular participation (Kail & Cavanaugh, 2019). The second circumstance that predicted success was the combination of pre-primary education efforts and family support endeavors to promote parental engagement in education (Kail & Cavanaugh, 2019). The predictors, when combined, promoted steady reductions in child maltreatment levels.

There are strategies to reduce maltreatment involving older children by promoting healthier interactions between them and their caregivers. As per Thomas and Zimmer-Gembeck (2011), one effective intervention against such abuse in high-risk households is parent-child interaction therapy (PCIT). The approach is based on several objectives, including supporting parents in building healthy positive relationships with children and gaining proficiency in selecting disciplinary measures (Kail & Cavanaugh, 2019). A standard PCIT program consists of twelve weeks of parent coaching sessions that involve the teaching of behavioral management techniques (Thomas & Zimmer-Gembeck, 2011). Setting realistic and appropriate goals and expectations related to children is another consideration that permeates the approach.


Kail, R. V., & Cavanaugh, J. C. (2019). Human development: A life-span view (8th ed.). Cengage Learning.

Knopf, A. (2021). Spanking found to increase fear response in children’s brains. The Brown University Child and Adolescent Behavior Letter, 37(6), 7. Web.

Thomas, R., & Zimmer-Gembeck, M. J. (2011). Accumulating evidence for parent–child interaction therapy in the prevention of child maltreatment. Child Development, 82(1), 177-192. Web.

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PsychologyWriting. "Preventing Child Maltreatment by Caregivers." September 15, 2023.