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BACKGROUND: Child maltreatment (CM) is a pervasive public health problem and there is a critical need for brief, effective, scalable prevention programs. Problematic parent-child relationships lie at the heart of CM. Parents who maltreat their children are more likely to have punitive parenting styles characterized by high rates of negative interaction and ineffective discipline strategies with over-reliance on punishment. Thus, parenting interventions that strengthen parent-child relationships, teach positive discipline techniques, decrease harsh parenting, and decrease child behavioral problems hold promise as CM prevention strategies. Challenges in engaging parents, particularly low-income and minority parents, and a lack of knowledge regarding effective implementation strategies, however, have greatly limited the reach and impact of parenting interventions. Child Adult Relationship Enhancement in Primary Care (PriCARE)/Criando Niños con CARIÑO is a 6-session group parenting intervention that holds promise in addressing these challenges because PriCARE/CARIÑO was (1) developed and iteratively adapted with input from racially and ethnically diverse families, including low-income families and (2) designed specifically for implementation in primary care with inclusion of strategies to align with usual care workflow to increase uptake and retention.
METHODS: This study is a multicenter randomized controlled trial with two parallel arms. Children, 2-6 years old with Medicaid/CHIP/no insurance, and their English- and Spanish-speaking caregivers recruited from pediatric primary care clinics in Philadelphia and North Carolina will be enrolled. Caregivers assigned to the intervention regimen will attend PriCARE/CARIÑO and receive usual care. Caregivers assigned to the control regimen will receive usual care only. The primary outcome is occurrence of an investigation for CM by child protective services during the 48 months following completion of the intervention. In addition, scores for CM risk, child behavior problems, harsh and neglectful parenting behaviors, caregiver stress, and caregiver-child interactions will be assessed as secondary outcome measures and for investigation of possible mechanisms of intervention-induced change. We will also identify PriCARE/CARIÑO implementation factors that may be barriers and facilitators to intervention referrals, enrollment, and attendance.
DISCUSSION: By evaluating proximal outcomes in addition to the distal outcome of CM, this study, the largest CM prevention trial with individual randomization, will help elucidate mechanisms of change and advance the science of CM prevention. This study will also gather critical information on factors influencing successful implementation and how to optimize intervention referrals, enrollment, and attendance to inform future dissemination and practical applications.
TRIAL REGISTRATION: This trial was registered on ClinicalTrials.gov (NCT05233150) on February 1, 2022, prior to enrolling subjects.