Pilot Evaluation of Outcomes of Combined Parent-Child Cognitive-Behavioral Group Therapy for Families at Risk for Child Physical Abuse

Melissa K. Runyon, Esther Deblinger, Christine M. Schroeder

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46 Scopus citations


Child physical abuse (CPA) is not only a highly prevalent public health problem, but it has been associated with a wide range of debilitating psychosocial sequelae that may develop during childhood and persist into adulthood. This paper outlines a treatment model, Combined Parent-Child Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CPC-CBT), that addresses the complex needs of the parent who engages in physically abusive behavior and the traumatized child. This pilot program was conducted to examine the feasibility of a CBT group approach that incorporates the child into the offending parent's treatment. It highlights the use of gradual exposure, developing a trauma narrative and abuse clarification to address PTSD symptoms in children. Parent components include motivational interviewing and consequence review, cognitive and behavioral anger-control strategies, and the examination of parent-child interactions to assist parents in modulating their emotions, remaining calm, and using effective problem-solving during child-rearing situations. Pilot data examining pre- to posttreatment changes for parents and children participating in the 16-week group treatment program are presented. Participants were 12 caregivers, ages 25 to 54, and their 21 children, ages 4 to 14, who were referred for the treatment of issues related to CPA. About 48% of participating parents were referred for substantiated CPA against their children, while the other parents were deemed to be at-risk for CPA. Both parents and children reported significant pre- to posttreatment reductions in the use of physical punishment. Results also demonstrated pre- to posttreatment improvements in parental anger toward their children, and consistent parenting as well as children's posttraumatic stress symptoms and behavioral problems. Clinical and research implications for these preliminary findings are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)101-118
Number of pages18
JournalCognitive and Behavioral Practice
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2009
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Psychology


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