This program is designed to provide support to battered mothers and reduce conduct problems in their children. The program is rated Promising. There were statistically significant effects in favor of the treatment group on measures of children’s conduct problems, happiness, and mothers’ aggression toward children. However, there were no statistically significant effects on children’s internalizing behaviors, mothers’ return to abusive partners, or recurrence of physical violence.
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.
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.
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.
McDonald and colleagues (2006) found mixed results with regard to the effects of Project Support. There were statistically significant effects in favor of the treatment group on measures of children’s conduct problems, happiness, and mothers’ aggression toward children. However, there were no statistically significant effects on children’s internalizing behaviors, mothers’ return to abusive partners, or recurrence of physical violence. Overall, the preponderance of evidence suggests that the program did have the intended impact on participants.
Children’s Conduct Problems
At the 24-month follow up, children in the Project Support treatment group were less likely to exhibit clinical levels of conduct problems, compared with children in the comparison group. Fifteen percent of children involved in the treatment group exhibited clinical levels of conduct problems, compared with 53 percent in the comparison group. This difference was statistically significant.
At the 24-month follow up, mothers of children in the treatment group recorded higher scores on the Children’s Happiness/Social Relationship Scale, compared with mothers of comparison group participants. This difference was statistically significant.
Children’s Internalizing Problems
There was no statistically significant difference in mean level of children’s internalizing problems for the treatment group, compared with the comparison group.
Maternal Aggression Toward Children
Mothers in the Project Support group were less likely to use aggressive child-management strategies, compared with comparison group mothers. Of the mothers in the treatment group, 31 percent reported using an aggressive child-management strategy during the follow-up period, compared with 71 percent of mothers in the comparison group. This difference was statistically significant.
Mother’s Return to Partner
There were no statistically significant differences between the treatment group and comparison group in mothers’ return to abusive partners following shelter departure.
Recurrence of Physical Violence
There were no statistically significant differences between the treatment group and comparison group in recurrence of violence toward mothers.
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.
There is no cost information available for this program.
Other resources available include a training manual, therapist certification, and face-to-face training (McDonald, Jouriles, and Skopp 2006).
Evidence-Base (Studies Reviewed)
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
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
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
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
Following are CrimeSolutions.gov-rated practices that are related to this program:Advocacy Interventions for Women Who Experience Intimate Partner Violence
Advocacy interventions aim to empower women who have experienced intimate partner violence and link them to helpful services in the community. The practice is rated Effective for reducing domestic/intimate partner violence. Women who received services through advocacy interventions experienced significantly less physical abuse, compared with women in the control groups, at 12- to 24-month follow-up periods.Evidence Ratings for Outcomes:
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