Preventing Child Abuse and Neglect

Key points

  • Offering children safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments prevents child abuse and neglect.
  • Training and treatment for children and families can reduce short- and long-term effects of child abuse and neglect.
  • Everyone has a role to play in preventing child abuse and neglect.
father giving son piggyback ride in the park


Creating safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments is essential for helping children and families thrive. These relationships and environments also help protect children against or lessen the negative effects of violence.

Safety, stability, and nurturing are defined as follows:

  • Safety: extent to which a child is free from fear and secure from physical or psychological harm within their social and physical environment.
  • Stability: degree of predictability and consistency in a child's social, emotional, and physical environment.
  • Nurturing: extent to which a child's physical, emotional, and developmental needs are sensitively and consistently met.

Everyone has a role to play in preventing child abuse and neglect and helping all children reach their full potential.


Parents and Caregivers

Young children experience the world through their relationships with parents and other caregivers. The quality of these relationships and the environment in which they develop, play a significant role in a child's development. Parents and caregivers can:

  • Set aside time each day to talk or play with your child.
  • Establish routines. Children feel secure when the environment is structured for them.
  • Validate your child's feelings and offer physical and emotional support.
  • Know who is supervising your child when they're outside your home.
  • Teach your child how to stay safe when they're online or on digital devices.
  • Seek parenting skill training programs to help build stronger relationships with your children.

Raising children can be challenging—ask for help when needed. Reach out to babysitters, family members, or close friends. Discuss your concerns with your child's doctor. Also consider finding out if your community offers support groups or programs for parents and caregivers.


Learn how to handle common parenting challenges and improve skills so you can enjoy helping your child grow with CDC's Essentials for Parenting Toddlers and Preschoolers or Essentials for Parenting Teens.


Ensuring the well-being of children is a shared responsibility. Friends, family, and other trusted adults can help by developing nurturing, supportive relationships with the children in their lives. Volunteering as a mentor at an afterschool program or offering to babysit are other ways to help.

Neighborhood associations can connect families to resources and other neighborhood adults to help with household tasks or with childcare.

Employers can adopt or support workplace policies that help families, such as livable wages, paid leave, and flexible and consistent schedules.

Everyone can recognize the challenges that families face and offer support and encouragement to reduce stress. Help encourage parents and caregivers to ask for help when they need it. Everyone can also support efforts to:

  • Adopt policies in support of families (such as family-friendly work policies).
  • Increase access to high-quality childcare and education.
  • Create safe places or neighborhood activities where children are supervised, and families can gather.
  • Provide access to free or low-cost evidence-based parent training.
  • Discourage violence and help ensure the safety of all members of a community.

Public health practitioners, partners, and other professionals also play a vital role in preventing child abuse and neglect.


Training and treatment for children and families can reduce the short- and long-term effects of child abuse and neglect exposure. These effects can include physical, emotional, behavioral, and mental health issues. It can also improve parent-child interactions, parenting behaviors, and family functioning. Treatment for children and families can also help prevent later involvement in violence.


These are a few evidence-based resources that promote safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments.

  • Early Head Start: These programs are designed to nurture healthy attachments. Services encompass the full range of a family's needs from pregnancy through a child's third birthday.
  • Adults and Children Together Against Violence: Parents Raising Safe Kids (ACT): The program teaches positive parenting skills to parents and caregivers of children from birth to age 10.
  • SafeCare: The program focuses on creating positive relationships between caregivers and their children, ensuring homes are safe to reduce the risk of child unintentional injury, and keeping children as healthy as possible.