Patrice Nolan

Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

William Pfohl, Karlene Ball, Lynn Clark


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Degree Program

Department of Psychology

Degree Type

Master of Arts


Child abuse has remained a problem without an easy solution for over a century. Definitions of child abuse have included physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, and neglect. Personal characteristics of the parent and the child; the style of interaction between them; and the family's daily living situation were found to contribute to the act of abuse. Not all treatment programs addressed all three factors, but interventions frequently stressed instruction in child management techniques. Authors identified parents' poor attendance, parents' low motivation, and difficulties in evaluating treatment outcomes as issues of concern in treating abusive parents.

The purpose of this study was to evaluate the treatment outcomes of a parent training program (PEG) designed to reduce the incidence of child abuse. Abusive parents (N = 52), referred by state child protection services, local hospitals and other agencies, received knowledge and skills training in topics related to child care, self-improvement for parents, and improvements in the family's living situation. Evaluation methods included mastery of skills, parent satisfaction, caseworkers satisfaction, and parent's performance on two standardized tests. The Parenting Stress Index (PSI) and the Adult/Adolescent Parenting Inventory (A/API) were administered in a pretest/posttest design. Abusive parents (N = 25) attending a local Parents Anonymous (PA) chapter served as a comparison group.

The results of an analyses of variance (ANOVA) indicated that abusive parents attending PEG and PA exhibited a reduction in overall stress (p < .01), and a decrease in the amount of stress related to childrearing (p < .01) after attending their respective treatment programs. Another significant result (p < .01) was an attitude change in using less physical punishment as a primary disciplinary approach. This attitude change was evident in both the PEG and PA parents. Both treatments altered parent's attitudes towards physical punishment and reduced the stress experienced by parents.

Parents attending the PEG program demonstrated a high level of skill mastery, satisfaction with the program, and reported utilizing skills taught in PEG in their daily lives. The caseworkers responded favorably to the PEG program and described it as an asset to their treatment planning. Although attendance remained a problem, PEG was deemed effective in reducing the likelihood of child abuse in the families of PEG parents. Future research should determine which components of the PEG program were the most essential to the prevention of abuse.


Counseling Psychology | Psychology | Social and Behavioral Sciences