During the last 20 years, public concern about child abuse and neglect has grown dramatically (Garbarino and Stocking, 1980; Gerbner, Ross, and Zigler, 1980; Kempe, Silverman, Steele, Droegemuller, and Silver, 1962). Within the past decade, a National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect has been established by the federal government, a National Committee for the Prevention of Child Abuse has been created in the private sector, and the media routinely convey the message that abuse and neglect are preventable. Two recent surveys have suggested a sharp increase in child abuse and neglect reports in the last six years (American Humane Association, 1985; National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect, 1981). These reports indicate that hundreds of thousands of children and families are in crisis and emphasize the importance of preventive programs and research efforts in this area (U.S. Senate, 1983). In view of these developments, it is disturbing that little is known about the prevention of maltreatment (Heifer, 1982).
A variety of program models and community strategies have been proposed, including the enhancement of parent-newborn contact and interaction (Garbarino, 1980; Klaus and Kennel, 1982), parenting education (Gelles and Cornell, 1985), telephone hotlines (Johnston, 1976), crisis or respite care of the child (Cohn, 1981), the provision of home-health visitors (Kempe, 1976), the enhancement of natural community helpers (Collins, 1981; Pancoast, 1981), the provision of increased employment opportunities and a guaranteed minimum income (Gil, 1974), the reduction of society's acceptance of violence (Gelles, 1984), as well as more comprehensive, multifaceted programs based on ecological theory (Lutzker and Rice, 1984; Lutzker, Frame, and Rice, 1982).