Evaluation of a School-Based Child Physical and Sexual Abuse Prevention Program

Erika L. Thompson, Zhengyang Zhou, Ashvita Garg, Danielle Rohr, Brittany Ajoku, Emily E. Spence

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Background: Evidence-based child sexual and physical abuse prevention programs delivered in schools are needed and require rigorous evaluation of program effects prior to widespread dissemination. The Play it Safe! program is a one-time session delivered by trained facilitators to teach students about recognizing, resisting, and reporting abuse. Aims: To evaluate a school-based child sexual and physical abuse prevention intervention Play it Safe! among elementary school students using a cluster randomized design. Method: Six elementary schools in Texas were matched on demographic characteristics, and then randomized to intervention or wait-list control groups. Participants included third to fifth graders (n = 539). Participants received the pretest assessing vignette-based knowledge of physical and sexual abuse prevention (14 items). The intervention group immediately had the program. One month later, both groups received a posttest using the same validated scale. Multilevel linear regression analyses were estimated, and interaction effects were used to evaluate the effect of Play it Safe! while controlling for other factors. Results: A statistically significant interaction between the treatment group and time (b = 1.30, p <.01) indicated a greater increase in the knowledge score over time in the intervention group. Moderating effect of grade was also observed as the intervention tended to have less effect for fifth grade compared with third grade (b = −1.04, p =.01). Conclusion: This study provides evidence to support the efficacy of the Play it Safe! program for increasing children’s physical and sexual abuse prevention knowledge and skills among a racially and ethnically diverse sample of elementary school students.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)584-592
Number of pages9
JournalHealth Education and Behavior
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2022


  • child abuse prevention
  • physical abuse
  • school-based program
  • sexual abuse


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