Training helps parent educators talk about childhood sexual abuse

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In a recent study, Penn State researchers examined parent educators’ attitudes and self-efficacy regarding delivering childhood sexual abuse (CSA)-specific content in an evidence-based prevention module. Prior to training, the parent educators were worried that parents would respond negatively to CSA content and were concerned about their comfort level discussing victimization and sexual development.

“Given that sex and childhood sexual abuse are considered to be taboo topics, if a provider is not comfortable or has negative attitudes about the content, then it could impact their presentation of the prevention content to parents,” explained Kate Guastaferro, assistant research professor of human development and family studies at Penn State and lead author of the paper published recently in Health Education and Behavior.

Thirty-three educators from parent-support programs including the Incredible Years and Parents as Teachers participated in three surveys: before participating in a skills-oriented training on how to deliver the CSA prevention module, immediately post-training, and 6 months post-training. 

Findings suggested that skill-oriented training and provision scripts effectively supported providers and improved confidence in delivering CSA prevention content. This exploratory study demonstrated that, though providers may approach CSA content with wariness and trepidation, adequate skills-oriented training can reduce negative attitudes and increase perceived efficacy in the actual delivery of CSA content that persists through implementation.

Guastaferro said she plans to continue examining provider attitudes and self-efficacy in a more rigorous way, in a more diverse sample.

“Parent educators are uniquely positioned to provide parents with important skills to prevent CSA. Therefore, ensuring the educators’ confidence in delivering the program is paramount to achieving real public health impact.”

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Kate Guastaferro Jennie Noll