Date of Award


Degree Name

Elementary Education


College of Education

Type of Degree


Document Type


First Advisor

Linda Spatig

Second Advisor

Mary Jo Graham

Third Advisor

Carl Johnson


The alarming amount of abuse and maltreatment incurred by children in the United States has drawn large scale public attention only over the past century. Governmental agencies have since implemented programs to protect children from abusers after the abuse has been reported and sufficiently proven. Over recent decades new types of programs have originated to protect children before abuse occurs by educating parents who possess high risk factors for abusing children. These types of programs operate on the assumption that if parents can become knowledgeable about basic fundamentals of child development, learn to deal with daily stressors and challenges, and gain access to community resources, then they will be less likely to abuse their children. This study is an evaluation of a primary prevention program in Southern West Virginia. The program’s effectiveness was assessed by an examination of the files of families who had participated in the program for at least nine months. Participation in the program and the evaluation was voluntary. Several specific types of data were collected from the files of 21 families participating in the primary prevention program. The data were organized into categories, and families were placed on continuums of functioning, based on the data collection and interviews with program staff. Results of the evaluation indicate that families who have at least one stable, supportive presence in their lives are more likely to function at higher levels. Additionally, the data indicate that families who have access to education and employment are likely to function more highly. The children of families in the study tended to function at higher levels than their families, despite the challenging conditions under which they attempt to thrive. This study suggests that some families, such as those who have intense challenges, may not reach goals or improve in family functioning, despite multiple intervention and outreach efforts. The findings also suggest, however, that the supportive nurturance of the program staff did help most families gain access to resources, improve on their knowledge of child development, and reduce risk factors.


Child abuse - Prevention.

Parent and child.