Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Sometimes, you just have to ask...

In 2005, the Surgeon-General held a workshop on preventing child maltreatment.

The proceedings are available here, and there was lots of discussion by lots of interesting people about new ways to prevent child abuse.

One of the most compelling points (at least for me) came during a talk by Sharon Ramey, a researcher at Georgetown University. She described the unintentional consequence of a simple research tool on parental behavior:

Dr. Ramey explained how new technologies are allowing researchers to study child maltreatment. For example, in one study, cell phones were used as tools to find out where mothers and babies were and what their interactions were. This observational study found that mothers of all ages and income levels liked to use the cell phones and they relayed information to researchers. A quarter of the participants thought this was an intervention (it was not). It caused mothers to notice things about their children, and mothers said it made them become better mothers.

As with the Hawthorne experiment, a little interest goes a long way.

Not only is it good to talk about the positive things, but sharing bad experiences is probably a good way to reduce stress and frustration about those experiences.

I also wonder if there was a bit of the "guardian" effect that was discussed in research by Julia Wrigley on SBS events in child care centers and home care settings.

Another key observation about prevention education:

The study also detected urgent conditions reflecting the most common cause of neglect-neglect due to ignorance. In four cities, it commonly was found that not everyone knew about health, safety, or cognition.

Television programs are being used to help promote positive parenting. Dr. Ramey commented on a national public television series funded by a foundation and based on books authored by Dr. Ramey and her husband. Often the didactic educational approach is not the best way to provide information. Literacy is an issue, and new ways must be found to disseminate information about evidence-based practices.

It's only four years ago, but I wonder what Dr. Ramey would say today about using social marketing concepts into prevention.

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