Effects of an evidence-based parenting program on biobehavioral stress among at-risk mothers for child maltreatment: A pilot study

Ashwini Tiwari, Shannon Self-Brown, Betty S. Lai, Colleen McCarty, Laura Carruth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Parental stress is an important risk factor for child maltreatment (CM) perpetration. Evidence-based, parent-training programs can decrease CM perpetration risk and reduce self-reported parental stress; however, little is known about how such programs impact physiological stress correlates. In this quasi-experimental pilot study, maternal biobehavioral responses were measured in response to SafeCare®, an evidence-based program targeting CM, often implemented by social workers in child welfare settings. Maternal participants (N = 18) were recruited to complete SafeCare and repeated within-subject assessments pre- and post-intervention. Analyses examined associations between self-reported parental stress and mental health symptomology with stress markers for cortisol, alpha-amylase, and dihydroepiandrosterone at baseline and follow-up. Baseline correlation analyses showed strong associations between parental stress, salivary cortisol levels, and alpha-amylase. At follow-up, significant correlations were found between parental stress and alpha-amylase for intervention completers (n = 7). Completers on average exhibited decreases across self-reported parental stress and global distress symptomology and improvements in salivary cortisol and alpha-amylase levels. Participants with impaired cortisol levels at baseline were within normal limits post-intervention. These pilot findings suggest that salivary cortisol and alpha-amylase are compelling physiological correlates of parental stress among high-risk parents. Results also support short-term, positive effects of SafeCare in potentially regulating physiological stress systems among at-risk mothers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)137-163
Number of pages27
JournalSocial Work in Health Care
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 16 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Alpha-amylase
  • biomarkers
  • child maltreatment
  • cortisol
  • intervention
  • parenting stress

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Community and Home Care
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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