Feature article

President's column

Psychologists with expertise in child and family violence can serve as advocates for children by educating the general public and parents on child maltreatment and positive parenting. 

By Sharon G. Portwood, JD, PhD

Recent events in the news have brought child abuse into the national spotlight and prompted journalists to contact many of our members for comment. While it is not possible to analyze any specific case without access to all of the facts, psychologists with expertise in child and family violence are nonetheless presented with a unique opportunity to serve as advocates for children by educating the general public, and particularly parents, on child maltreatment and positive parenting. Even those whose expertise is not in these areas can highlight scientifically sound sources and provide information on the resources available. For example, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has material available online regarding empirically supported practices and practical tips for parents. Scientific information on evidence-based parenting programs shown to produce positive outcomes for children, such as Incredible Years, Nurse Family Partnership and Triple P, are also readily available.

Earlier this year, the division's executive committee approved an Interdivisional Task Force on the Physical Punishment of Children , in partnership with Div. 7 (Developmental Psychology). The task force, co-chaired by Cindy Miller-Perrin, PhD, and Gail Goodman, PhD, is currently developing a statement with links to useful references and other sources that will be available on the division website. As cases continue to move through the judicial system, there will no doubt be continuing opportunities to share relevant scientific knowledge with the broader community, and I hope these resources will be useful to our membership in participating in advocacy efforts.

In concluding this column, I would like to extend a special thank you to Julie Cohen, who will be stepping down from her role as editor of the Advocate at the end of this year. Julie has done a remarkable job in producing our division newsletter, and thus providing a regular forum for communication and connections among our members. She has also secured the services of a wonderful successor, Jonathan Martinez, whom I am very happy to welcome to the Advocate. Thank you to both Julie and Jonathan.