The Moderating Effect of Risk Exposure on an Efficacious Intervention for Maltreated Children

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Graduate School of Social Work


The current study extends research on the impact of the Fostering Healthy Futures program (Taussig & Culhane, 2010), a 9-month mentoring and skills group preventive intervention for maltreated children, by examining whether the effect of Fostering Healthy Futures is moderated by children’s baseline risk exposure (i.e., number of adverse childhood experiences). Participants included 156 racially and ethnically diverse children (ages 9–11, 50.7% female) recently placed in foster care due to maltreatment who were randomized to intervention or control conditions. Baseline and 6-month postintervention measures included a multi-informant index of mental health functioning and youth-reported symptoms of posttraumatic stress, dissociation, coping skills, social-acceptance, global self-worth, social support, and quality of life. A previously published, empirically derived risk index was used to assess level of exposure to 6 adverse childhood experiences (i.e., physical abuse, sexual abuse, removal from a single parent household, high level of exposure to community violence, and high numbers of caregiver and school transitions). Significant Intervention × Risk interactions were observed in regression models predicting 6-month postintervention symptoms of posttraumatic stress (β = .38, p < .001) and dissociation (β = .30, p < .01). Among children with low to moderate levels of risk, intervention participants evidenced fewer symptoms, whereas intervention participants with high levels of risk did not differ from the control group. The results of this study suggest that maltreated children exposed to high numbers of adverse childhood experiences may not experience the same reduction in trauma symptoms postintervention relative to children exposed to fewer adversities.

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