The Evidence Portal

Reducing Child Harm and Maltreatment Evidence Review

Child harm and maltreatment can have profound impacts on children’s wellbeing and physical, psychological, emotional, behavioural and social development. These impacts can extend into adulthood and lead to poorer outcomes in economic opportunity, educational attainment, housing security, community participation, empowerment and health.

In 2021, the Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ) commissioned Western Sydney University to complete a rapid evidence review to identify evidence from international and Australian research about programs that reduce harm and maltreatment and improve outcomes for vulnerable children aged 0-5 years.  Only systematic reviews, meta-analyses, or studies that used a randomised controlled trial or quasi-experimental design were included.

The evidence review adopted a core components approach to identify what effective programs have in common. The evidence review identified four core components of programs that contribute to a reduction in child harm and maltreatment:

  • Engagement
  • Building supportive relationships and social networks
  • Building parental capacity
  • Case management

The evidence review identified 25 evidence-informed programs which contributed to a reduction in harm and maltreatment for vulnerable young children.  These programs vary greatly in setting, mode and length.

The majority of programs identified in the review are designed to improve parenting competency and family functioning. A large number aim to prevent neglect and abuse, and reduce the incidence of contact with child protection services. A significant number target harsh and/or dysfunctional discipline and punishment. A small number of the programs specifically address child health, child safety and domestic violence.

See the Evidence to Action Note (PDF, 364.1 KB) and the full report for more information about the evidence review.

For more details about how the evidence review was conducted (e.g. search strings, databases searched) see the Reducing Child Harm and Maltreatment Evidence Review Protocol (PDF, 702.5 KB).

Last updated:

02 Mar 2023

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Informed by lessons of the past, Department of Communities and Justice is improving how we work with Aboriginal people and communities. We listen and learn from the knowledge, strength and resilience of Stolen Generations Survivors, Aboriginal Elders and Aboriginal communities.

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