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Program Profile: Moms’ Empowerment Program

Evidence Rating: Promising - One study Promising - One study

Date: This profile was posted on December 07, 2017

Program Summary

This program provides support for mothers who have experienced intimate partner violence (IPV). The goal of the program is to assist mothers and ultimately improve their children’s adjustment. The program was rated Promising. Results showed a statistically significant improvement in children’s externalizing behaviors and attitudes about family violence, although there was no effect on children’s internalizing behaviors. Mothers in the program also experienced greater reductions in IPV over time.

Program Description

Program Goals/Target Population
The Mom’s Empowerment Program (MEP) provides support and services for mothers who have experienced intimate partner violence (IPV). The program provides psychoeducation about violence and its effects on women and children, identifies and assists women with advocacy needs, and teaches women skills that promote good mental health. The goal of MEP is to enhance mothers’ arsenal of parenting and disciplinary skills, increase their social and emotional adjustment, and therefore reduce their children’s behavioral and adjustment difficulties.
Program Components
MEP is a 10-session program. The program provides support for mothers by empowering them to discuss the effects of violence on their child’s development, increase their parenting competency, provide a safe place for them to discuss fears and worries, and build their connections in the form of a support group. The program is implemented in small groups and is led by clinical psychologists, community social workers, advanced social work graduate students, or an advanced clinical psychology doctoral student. Two therapists are assigned to each small group, which usually consists of five to seven women. The small group format is used to create a sense of safety and community.
The beginning sessions of MEP focus on building group cohesion by developing rules, establishing expectations about attendance, and conducting privacy discussions. A main component of the intervention consists of lessons on empowerment and safety, which are introduced early in the group sessions. Participants also learn about the power and control used by abusive partners, and are invited to discuss opportunities to break this cycle of domination.
Once the foundational concepts are solidified, the group sessions focus on topics related to the intergenerational transmission of violence. Participants’ are asked about their families of origin, the history of violence in their lives, and the effect of violence exposure on their children.
Over the course of the intervention, women also learn skills that involve conflict resolution, assertive communication, stress management, and emotion regulation. In the final sessions, mothers are introduced to additional resources in the community, and their support systems are further developed. Mothers are not encouraged to leave their relationship; instead, they are provided with the tools to make the appropriate decision for next steps.
Key Personnel
Therapists assigned to each group go through clinical and didactic training. Group leaders may also receive supervision for 4 hours a week with a licensed clinical psychologist, but this is not required.
Program Theory
The MEP intervention is based on empowerment theory, which focuses on issues of power imbalance and disenfranchisement. It is believed that allowing women to regain power will allow them to affect and improve their current situation (Miller, Howell, and Graham-Bermann 2014). Empowerment includes personal control with the ability to impact the behaviors of others, enhancing existing strength in individuals, and believing that power is not a scarce resource but rather one that can be assumed by anyone. There are four psychological changes that are important to the empowerment theory: increasing self-efficacy, developing group consciousness, reducing self-blame, and assuming personal responsibility.
Other Information
 This program is often implemented in conjunction with the Kids Club program. The program is also featured on  

Evaluation Outcomes

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Study 1
Externalizing Problems
Graham–Bermann and colleagues (2007) found a statistically significant between-group difference in externalizing behavior. Children of mothers in the child-mother group (CM), who participated in the Mom’s Empowerment Program, showed greater improvement over time on measures of externalizing behavior, compared with children of mothers in the comparison group (CG).
Internalizing Problems
There was no statistically significant difference between the CM group and CG in internalizing behavior.
Attitudes About Family Violence
The CM group saw a decrease in mean Attitudes About Family Violence scores over the course of the study, meaning that the children in the CM group became less accepting of violence. Children of mothers in the CM group improved over time in attitudes toward family violence, compared with children of mothers in the CG. This finding was statistically significant.
Study 2
Intimate Partner Violence Victimization
Miller, Howell, and Graham-Bermann (2014) found that women who participated in the Mom’s Empowerment Program experienced greater reductions in intimate partner violence over time, compared with women in the comparison group. This finding was statistically significant.
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Evaluation Methodology

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Study 1
Graham-Bermann and colleagues (2007) conducted a quasi-experimental, community-based intervention to study the effect of the Mom’s Empowerment and Kids Club programs on battered moms and their children. The study was conducted in five urban locations in Michigan. Mothers who were victims of intimate partner violence (IPV) within the past year and their children, whether they were exposed to IPV or were victims, were eligible and children with diagnosable and non-diagnosable problems were also eligible for the study.
The study involved interviewing 221 mothers and children. The children were randomly assigned to three conditions: 1) child-only intervention (Kids Club), 2) child-mother intervention (Mom’s Empowerment), or 3) the comparison group (CG). The study used a sequential assignment procedure. The first seven children were assigned to child-only (CO). The next seven children were assigned to the child-mother (CM) group, and the following seven were assigned to the comparison group (CG). This assignment method continued until each child was assigned to a group. The CG children were placed on a waiting list and did not participate in either intervention. CM and CO groups did not differ from CG participants in ethnicity, income, maternal age or marital status, education, child age or gender, or exposure to IPV.
There were 62 children in the CO group, 61 children in the CM group, and 58 children in the CG group. All three groups were interviewed at baseline before the program began and interviewed a second time at the end of the program. The CO and CM groups were interviewed a third time, 8 months after the program ended. At the end of the 10 weeks, those in the CG were offered a chance to participate in the program and were not interviewed a third time. Seven children who received the treatment were not interviewed a third time; two refused the interview, and five dropped out after the program ended. This left 56 in the CO group and 60 in the CM group who participated in all three interviews.
Externalizing and internalizing behaviors were assessed, using the Child Behavioral Checklist. Mothers completed this 113-item questionnaire, rating statements about behaviors in their child from a score of 0 to 2, with 0 meaning “not true,” 1 meaning “somewhat or sometimes true,” and 2 meaning “very true or often true.” The Externalizing Scale has statements about aggression and delinquency, while the Internalizing Scale has statements about anxiety, depression, withdrawal, and somatic complaints.
Attitudes toward violence were also assessed, using the Attitudes About Family Violence Scale, an instrument that was created for use in this study. The child was asked to rate 10 statements about violence on a 5-point scale about how much they agreed with the statement. Positive statements were reverse scored, so that the higher the overall score, the more negative the attitude toward violence. There were no subgroup analyses conducted.
The focus of this review was the impact of the Mom’s Empowerment program on the CM group, compared with the CG group.
Study 2
Miller, Howell, and Graham-Bermann (2014) conducted a randomized controlled trial to study the effect of Mom’s Empowerment Program on mothers impacted by intimate partner violence (IPV). The study included women from urban and rural areas in the midwestern United States and in southern Ontario, Canada. Women were eligible to participate if they experienced IPV within the past 2 years and had a child between 4 and 6 years old.
The study involved baseline interviews with 120 women. The women ranged in age from 21 to 54 years. Of the total sample, 48 percent were white, 37 percent were African American, 8 percent were biracial, 6 percent were Hispanic American, and 1 percent were Asian American. Most women had some college or advanced education (59 percent), but were generally low income. Women who were interested in participating in the intervention were randomly assigned to the treatment group (Mom’s Empowerment) or to the comparison group after their baseline interview.
The comparison group consisted of 62 women, and the treatment group consisted of 58 women. Comparison group participants were offered the opportunity to participate in the intervention after the second interview. Also, at the 6- to 8-month mark, baseline interviews were conducted with the treatment group before the first program session and a second interview was conducted at the end of the program (approximately 5 weeks later). The comparison group was also interviewed at baseline and approximately 5 weeks later. Follow-up interviews took place for both groups approximately 6 to 8 months after the second interview. After the second interview, women in the comparison group were given the opportunity to participate in the program. Nine women opted to join the program; however, because this participation could have contaminated the follow-up data, the nine women were not included in the final analysis. In addition, at the follow up, 41 percent of the women were unable to be located; therefore, the total sample size at follow up was only 62 women for both groups.
A Conflict Tactics Scale-Revised Version (CTS2) was used to measure exposure to violence. Women reported the number of times they were victims of a particular violent offense during their baseline interview and again at their 6- to 8-month follow up. The study used an intent-to-treat approach analysis. There were no subgroup analyses conducted.
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There is no cost information available for this program.
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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
Graham–Bermann, Sandra, Shannon Lynch, Victoria Banyard, Ellen DeVoe, and Hilda Halabu. 2007. “Community-Based Intervention for Children Exposed to Intimate Partner Violence: An Efficacy Trial.” Journal of Counseling and Clinical Psychology 75(2):199–209.

Study 2
Miller-Graff, Laura E., Kathryn H. Howell, Sandra A. Graham-Bermann. 2014. “The Effect of an Evidence-Based Intervention on Women’s Exposure to Intimate Partner Violence.” American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 84(4):321-28.  

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Additional References

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

Graham-Bermann, Sandra A., Laura E. Miller. 2013. “Intervention to Reduce Traumatic Stress Following Intimate Partner Violence: An Efficacy Trial of the Moms’ Empowerment Program (MEP).” Psychodynamic Psychiatry 41(2):329-50.

Howell, Kathryn H., Laura E. Miller, Michelle M. Lilly, Viktor Burlaka, Andrew C. Grogan-Kaylor, and Sandra A. Graham-Bermann. 2015. “Strengthening Positive Parenting Through Evaluating the Mom’s Empowerment Program for Women Experiencing Intimate Partner Violence.” Journal of Interpersonal Violence 30(2):232–52. (This study was reviewed but did not meet Crime Solutions' criteria for inclusion in the overall program rating.)

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Program Snapshot

Age: 6 - 12, 21 - 54

Gender: Both

Race/Ethnicity: Black, White, Other

Geography: Urban

Setting (Delivery): Other Community Setting

Program Type: Conflict Resolution/Interpersonal Skills, Group Therapy, Parent Training, Victim Programs, Children Exposed to Violence, Violence Prevention

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, Model Programs Guide

Sandra Graham-Bermann
Professor of Psychology
University of Michigan
2265 East Hall
Ann Arbor MI 48109