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Preventing child abuse and neglect spares a child pain and suffering, both physical and psychological. This is intuitively and morally preferable to intervening “after the fact.” Further, early intervention or prevention may be more effective than later intervention. For example, the time when a family has a new baby often is described as “a window of opportunity,” and early efforts to support the family and strengthen their parenting abilities may be particularly effective and cost-effective.

Child maltreatment is not a rare phenomenon. Data from the 3rd National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect revealed that approximately 1% of children were identified as abused and 1.5% as neglected in 1993, and these rates are likely the “tip of the iceberg.” A number of studies have found that as many as one in four girls and one in ten boys has been...

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