Social support and child protection: Lessons learned and learning

Child Abuse Negl. 2015 Mar;41:19-29. doi: 10.1016/j.chiabu.2014.06.011. Epub 2014 Jul 17.


Social support has been a topic of research for nearly 50 years, and its applications to prevention and intervention have grown significantly, including programs advancing child protection. This article summarizes the central conclusions of the 1994 review of research on social support and the prevention of child maltreatment prepared for the U.S. Advisory Board on Child Abuse and Neglect, and surveys advances in the field since its publication. Among the lessons learned twenty years ago are (a) the diversity of the social support needs of at-risk families and their association with child endangerment, (b) the need to supplement the emotionally affirmative aspects of social support with efforts to socialize parenting practices and monitor child well-being, (c) the desirability of integrating formal and informal sources of social support for recipients, and (d) the importance of considering the complex recipient reactions to receiving support from others. The lessons we are now learning derive from research exploring the potential of online communication to enhance social support, the neurobiology of stress and its buffering through social support, and the lessons of evaluation research that are identifying the effective ingredients of social support interventions.

Keywords: Child abuse and neglect; Child protection; Family support; Home visitation; Social isolation; Social support; Stress.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Child Abuse / prevention & control*
  • Child Protective Services*
  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Family Health
  • Humans
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Isolation
  • Social Support*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • United States