Effective Interventions for Child Abuse and Neglect

By Geraldine McDonald.


£45 (hardback) £20 (paperback)

ISBN: 0 471 49146 2 (hardback) 0 471 49147 (paperback)

The Department of Health has emphasised that research and
practice should go hand in hand. In 1995 all child protection
practitioners were urged to familiarise themselves with messages
coming out of research.

Since then, evidence-based practice has informed the principles
of the new assessment framework. This emphasis poses three
questions: how to make sense of the available body of research, how
to make the latter accessible, and how to promote critical thinking
skills. An inherent need is to promote a professional culture
change which can combine human interaction with critical

This book responds to all three questions and to the need for
cultural change. The author is realistic about the challenges to
child protection research and acknowledges the limitations of
outcome studies which are the book’s primary focus. The material is
presented in four sections covering evaluation, child maltreatment,
prevention and treatment, assessment and decision-making. An
extensive overview of the research informs a meta-analysis of
questions which practitioners face daily such as how to work with
abusing parents and how to assess resilience.

I tested the book by searching the contents to inform a
specialist assessment and found some useful pointers. I was
disappointed with the view of attachment theory and research which
does not, for me, reflect its breadth, relevance and new
developments such as matching treatment to the child’s attachment

While noting a convergence with attachment theory within a
developmental and relational paradigm, the author prefers the
evidence for a social cognitive framework. The section on
assessment has practical appeal although I was one of those whom
the author predicts will find her use of Bayes’ theorem (a
mathematical problem-solving tool) off-putting.

The subject matter means that the book is not an easy read. It
is a source book to consult rather than read as whole. Of
necessity, the author can only summarise a large body of knowledge
and has to stay with complexity and uncertainty rather than draw
firm conclusions. As result, reading the book felt rather like
making the effort to attend a formal dinner to be served with only
the first course.

Although it moves to bridge the gap between research and
practice, I question the book’s accessibility. It is a pity that
its academic rigour lends a tone which lacks the vibrancy of
studies based in grounded theory. Nevertheless, I am likely to dip
into this book as a resource for training and when researching
assessment reports.

It will also be useful to social workers, practice teachers and
to students needing some solid references for their essays. It is
harder to say how far the aim of making evidence-based research
accessible to practitioners, managers and policy makers will be

Sue Richardson is an attachment-based psychotherapist,
trainer and expert witness.

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