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Program Profile

Project Support

Evidence Rating: Promising - One study Promising - One study

Program Description

Program Goals/Target Population

Project Support addresses the issues that family violence causes for children of abused mothers and children who have been maltreated. Since these children are at a high risk for conduct problems, the objective of the program is to reduce conduct problems in these children, reduce harsh parenting, and improve the mother’s relationship with her children. The program also aims to provide support for battered mothers during their transition away from an abusive partner.

The program is targeted at families (mothers and children) who have sought refuge at a domestic violence shelter. To receive services through the program, at least one child between the ages of 4 and 9 must exhibit clinical levels of conduct problems, as defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, and the mother must be trying to establish a household separate from the violent partner. 
 

Services Provided

The intervention comprises two main components: 1) providing emotional support to the mother and 2) teaching her child management and nurturing strategies to reduce misconduct in her child. The program addresses the first component by helping mothers obtain physical resources and social support to help them become self-sufficient, and by offering training in decision making and problem solving. The second component involves teaching the mother positive ways to respond to behavior problems, communication skills, and ways to facilitate a positive relationship with her child.

Therapists visit the families in their home weekly to provide hour-long sessions, for 6 to 8 months after departure from the domestic violence shelter. A trained student mentor interacts with the child while the mother is in therapy. The program is tailored to meet each family’s individual needs.
 

Key Personnel

Therapists provide therapy to mothers and their children; mentors work with children while the mother meets individually with the therapist; and trained research staff assist with program implementation.

Evaluation Outcomes

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Study 1
Children’s Conduct Problems/Externalizing Problems
At the 24-month follow-up, McDonald and colleagues (2006) found that children in the Project Support group were less likely to exhibit clinical levels of conduct problems compared to children in the comparison group. Fifteen percent of children involved in the treatment group exhibited clinical levels of conduct problems, compared to 53 percent of those in the comparison group.

Children’s Happiness/Internalizing Problems
According to mothers’ reports, children in the Project Support group were happier and had better social relationships compared to children in the comparison group. The mean score for the Children’s Happiness/Social Relationships Scale was 3.9 for the treatment group, compared to a mean score of 3.5 for the comparison group. This difference was found to be statistically significant.

Further, the mothers’ reports indicated that children in the Project Support group had lower levels of internalizing problems compared to children in the comparison group. While mean levels of internalizing problems did not differ between the treatment and comparison groups, there was a difference between the groups in the percentage that exhibited clinical levels of internalizing problems. Zero percent of children in the treatment group showed clinical levels of internalizing problems, while 35 percent of children in the control group that showed clinical levels of internalizing problems.


Maternal Aggression toward Children
Mothers in the Project Support group were less likely to use aggressive child-management strategies; they also reported improvement in parenting skills. Of the mothers in the treatment group, 31 percent reported using an aggressive child-management strategy during the follow-up period, compared to 71 percent of mothers in the comparison group.

Mother’s Return to Partner
Mothers in the Project Support program were less likely to have returned to their abusive partners during the follow-up period. Twenty-three percent of mothers in the treatment group reported having returned to their partner during the follow-up period, compared to 53 percent of the mothers in the comparison group.

Recurrence of Physical Violence
Mothers in the Project Support program were less likely to have experienced physical violence during the follow-up period. Thirty-eight percent of mothers in the treatment group reported a recurrence of violence, compared to 47 percent of mothers in the control group.
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Evaluation Methodology

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Study 1
McDonald, Jouriles, and Skopp (2006) conducted a 24-month follow-up of their 2001 study (Jouriles, McDonald et al. 2001), which evaluated 36 families involved in the Project Support program. In 2001, the researchers used a randomized controlled trial to evaluate the impact of the Project Support program on children’s conduct and the mothers’ parenting skills. The families were randomly assigned to an intervention group and an existing services group, and were assessed every 4 months over 16 months after departure from the battered women’s shelter. The families in the comparison group were contacted monthly over 16 months and encouraged to use existing services; they did not receive any clinical services from Project Support.

In 2006, the researchers were able to locate 30 of the original 36 families that were willing to participate in the follow-up study. Thirteen of these families had participated in the Project Support intervention condition, and 17 had been assigned to the existing services comparison condition. The sample included 21 boys and 9 girls, and the mean age of the children was 5.5 years. If more than one child met the eligibility criteria, the youngest child was targeted. Children with serious mental illnesses were excluded from the study. The mean age of the mothers was 28.7 years, and all of the families could be described as living in poverty. The ethnic composition of participating mothers was 9 white, 11 African-American, 8 Latino, 1 Asian-American, and 1 self-described as other. The follow-up was conducted in the families’ homes by two members of the research staff; one staff member interviewed the mother, while another supervised the child.

In the follow-up study, the researchers looked at several outcomes in addition to children’s conduct, including children’s overall happiness, maternal aggression toward children, the mother’s decision to return to the abusive partner, and the recurrence of physical violence. Empirically based instruments were used to distinguish between clinical and subclinical levels of problems. Clinical levels indicated recognizable signs and symptoms of serious mental illness or conduct issues; while subclinical levels indicated underlying problems with the potential to manifest into serious illness.


Children’s conduct problems/externalizing problems. This was assessed using the mother’s responses to items from the Externalizing Disorder Scale of the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL), an empirically based assessment tool. The questions asked about the child’s behavior over the time period following shelter departure. Using the CBCL, children’s conduct was classified as falling at either the clinical or subclinical level.

Children’s happiness/internalizing problems. Children’s happiness was assessed using four items from the Children’s Happiness/Social Relationships Scale. Mothers reported perceptions of their children’s happiness on a 5-point scale that rated how well the items described their children; the scores ranged from 1 (not at all) to 5 (very well) on such statements as the child “feels good about himself or herself,” or “is well liked by other children”. Higher scores indicated greater happiness and better social relationships.

Children’s internalizing problems were assessed using the mother’s responses to items from the Internalizing Disorder Scale of the CBCL. Mothers reported their impressions of their children’s feelings, and the instrument was used to distinguish between clinical and subclinical levels of problems.


Maternal aggression toward children. This was assessed using four items from the Revised Conflict Tactics Scales. The mother was asked if certain aggressive acts had taken place over the time period following shelter departure, such as hitting, slapping, pushing, and throwing things. If any of the acts occurred, aggression was coded as “present”; if not, it was coded as “absent.”

Mother’s return to partner. This was assessed using questions about the mothers’ extent of their contact with the abusive partner over the time period following shelter departure. They were asked to describe contacts with their abusive partner since the previous interview, as well as to report all people who lived in the household since the previous interview. If a mother indicated that she was living with her previous partner, she was coded as having returned. The data was coded as “return” or “no return.”

Recurrence of physical violence. This was assessed using items from the 8-item Physical Violence subscale of the Conflict Tactics Scales. The mother was asked to report if she experienced physical violence (by her previous partner or any other partner) over the time period following shelter departure.
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Cost

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There is no cost information available for this program.
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Implementation Information

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Other resources available include a training manual, therapist certification, and face-to-face training.
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Evidence-Base (Studies Reviewed)

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Study 1

McDonald, Renee, Ernest Jouriles, and Nancy Skopp. 2006. “Reducing Conduct Problems Among Children Brought to Women’s Shelters: Intervention Effects 24 Months Following Termination of Services.” Journal of Family Psychology 20(1):127–36.


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Additional References

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These sources were used in the development of the program profile:

Jouriles, Ernest, 2001. “Reducing Conduct Problems Among Children of Battered Women.” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 69(5):774–8.

Jouriles, Ernest, Renee McDonald, David Rosenfield, Nanette Stephens, Deborah Corbitt–Shindler, Pamela Miller. 2009. “Reducing Conduct Problems Among Children Exposed to Intimate Partner Violence: A Randomized Clinical Trial Examining Effects of Project Support.” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 77(4):705–17.

Jouriles, Ernest, Renee McDonald, David Rosenfield, Laura Spiller, Deborah Corbitt-Shindler, William Norwood, Nanette Stephens, Deborah Corbitt–Shindler, Miriam Ehrensaft. 2010. “Improving Parenting in Families Referred for Child Maltreatment: A Randomized Clinical Trial Examining Effects of Project Support.” Journal of Family Psychology 24(3):328–38.
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Program Snapshot

Age: 4 - 9, 23 - 33

Gender: Both

Race/Ethnicity: Black, Asian/Pacific Islander, Hispanic, White

Geography: Suburban, Urban

Setting (Delivery): Home

Program Type: Crisis Intervention/Response, Family Therapy, Individual Therapy, Parent Training, Victim Programs, Children Exposed to Violence

Targeted Population: Females, Victims of Crime, Children Exposed to Violence, Families

Current Program Status: Active

Listed by Other Directories: Child Exposure to Violence Evidence Based Guide

Program Developer:
Ernest Jouriles
Professor
Southern Methodist University
PO Box 750442
Dallas TX 75275-0442
Phone: 214.768.2360
Website
Email

Program Developer:
Renee McDonald
Associate Professor
Southern Methodist University
PO Box 750442
Dallas TX 75275-0442
Phone: 214.768.1128
Website
Email