Parenting programs are the most common intervention for preventing the lethal form of child maltreatment, abusive head trauma (AHT). However, certain results of the effects of these programs have not yet been compared across studies. A systematic review with meta-analysis is warranted to quantitively synthesize the available evidence to identify effective elements and strategies of the programs for preventing AHT. This review aims to estimate AHT preventive parenting programs' pooled effect on the reduction of AHT incidence, the improvement of parental knowledge, and the increased use of safe strategies in response to infants' inconsolable crying.
Studies published in English and Mandarin were searched and retained if they were randomized control trials (RCTs) or with a quasi-experimental design, included an AHT preventive parenting program, and provided data that quantified targeted outcomes.
Eighteen studies were included in this review. AHT preventive parenting programs had a pooled effect on improving parents' knowledge and increasing the use of safe coping strategies in response to inconsolable crying but not on the incidence of AHT and parents' emotional self-regulation. Subgroup analyses showed that the intervention effects were mostly present across study designs or measurements and emerged in the reduction of AHT incidence compared with historical controls.
The findings suggest that AHT preventive parenting programs enhance parenting knowledge and skills to provide safe care for infants. Further efforts to evaluate AHT parenting programs on the reduction of AHT incidence are necessary for decision-making on allocating and disseminating interventions.
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