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Parenting program could reduce child abuse -

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Parenting program could reduce child abuse

The World Today - Wednesday, 28 January , 2009 12:48:00

Reporter: Timothy McDonald

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Temper tantrums can bring out the worst in both children and their parents.

Now an academic from the University of Queensland says if parents were better trained to deal with
bad tempered children, there would be less child abuse.

Timothy McDonald reports.

TIMOTHY MCDONALD: Professor Matt Sanders from the University of Queensland says he's developed a
system that could help parents who have difficulty dealing with their children.

MATT SANDERS: It is designed as a flexible, multi-level system of support for parents. This means
that there's not a single program that's suitable for all parents, but it is designed as a
population or public health kind of strategy.

TIMOTHY MCDONALD: Professor Sanders is the director of the university's parenting and family
support centre. His 'Triple P' program has been put to the test in dozens of academic studies from
around the globe.

But for the first time, it was recently trialled in 18 counties in the US, to see if it had any
effect on child maltreatment.

Professor Sanders says the results are very encouraging.

MATT SANDERS: Rather than just saying 'let's only providing parenting support to parents who are
already in serious strife,' let's de-stigmatise it. Let's make it something that is almost like a
normative rite of passage.

And the data is showing that on a population base of 100,000 children, it led to 688 fewer cases of
maltreatment, 240 fewer out-of-home placements where children were removed to foster care and 60
fewer children with injuries requiring hospitalisation or emergency room treatment.

TIMOTHY MCDONALD: Professor Sanders says the states and the Commonwealth should work hard to make
'Triple P' more accessible to parents.

MATT SANDERS: Why don't they implement 'Triple P' on a national basis? It's a home-grown program,
it's got the strongest evidence base of any Australian program, it's only patchily available across
the country.

And it's the kind of intervention that if it's implemented as a public health strategy, is likely
to be associated with significant improvements in children's mental health, their social well-being
and it will reduce the levels of child abuse in the community. These are major problem areas for
government.

TIMOTHY MCDONALD: Dr Chris McAuliffe is the GP adviser in primary mental health care to the
Australian General Practice Network. She was involved in an earlier study on the 'Triple-P'
program, and says the results in the latest study aren't surprising.

CHRIS MCAULIFFE: With respect to the study that's come out from the CDC(Center of Disease Control)
in the States just recently, the use of coercive parenting methods in the region dropped by about a
third. So these are very significant improvements, and showed that rolling out 'Triple P'; making
it available to families in the entire population results in significant improvements for families
right across the population.

TIMOTHY MCDONALD: Dr McAuliffe agrees that the program should be made more available to parents.
She says it's a good idea and it's extremely cost effective.

CHRIS MCAULIFFE: That initiative could have been rolled out to every family in Australia for less
than the cost of an immunisation. So, I think we need think about, this is a really important area
and if this initiative came in, in a vaccine, we'd be really asking not should government roll this
out, but why isn't government rolling it out?

TIMOTHY MCDONALD: The federal ministers for Health and Community Services were both unavailable for
comment. But the New South Wales Minister for Community Services, Linda Burnie, says 'Triple-P' is
already widely available.

LINDA BURNIE: What we have in NSW is a thing called 'Families First'. And that's rolled out right
across NSW. And that's for children between the ages of three and eight years old. And any family
participating in that program will also be given the opportunity to have access to the 'Triple P'
program.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: The NSW Community Services Minister Linda Burnie.