Multisystemic therapy for child abuse and neglect: Parental stress and parental mental health as predictors of change in child neglect

Elsevier, Child Abuse and Neglect, Volume 126, April 2022
Bauch J., Hefti S., Oeltjen L., Perez T., Swenson C.C., Furstenau U. et al.

Background: Despite high prevalence, child neglect has long been passed over in research. Serious long-term consequences call for effective intervention programs. However, as a result of the lack of research, there is a lack of effective interventions. In order to develop such intervention programs and to maximize the effectiveness of existing programs, it is necessary to examine what factors are related to the reduction of neglect and, subsequently, what change mechanisms their effectiveness is based on. Objective: In this intervention study we investigated whether changes in parental mental health and parental stress after Multisystemic Therapy for Child Abuse and Neglect (MST-CAN), an effective evidence-based intervention program for child neglect, are related to changes in child neglect. Participants and setting: Study participants were 144 parent-child dyads participating in the MST-CAN program. Methods: We analyzed changes from pre- to post-treatment in child neglect, parental mental health, and parental stress, and conducted a multiple regression analysis to examine whether changes in parental mental health and parental stress predict changes in child neglect. Result: Our results showed that child neglect, as well as parental stress, significantly decreased and parental mental health significantly improved during the program. While improvements in parental mental health were not related to the reduction of child neglect, a decrease in parental stress significantly predicted the reduction of child neglect. Conclusion: These findings suggest that parental stress might be a promising target for evidence-based intervention programs to reduce the occurrence of child neglect. Implications and suggestions for further research are discussed.