Paid Family Leave, Stress and Great Childhoods

CHICAGO, IL – Imagine how excited we were to read in Health Day that recent findings published in Injury Prevention show that, “Paid family leave might lead to reduced risk of abuse-related head injuries in young children.” Considering our mission, any news like that is considered great and promising news.

We know that we need to reduce the stress that parents often experience, especially those with the youngest children, because what we know is that stress when not addressed can lead to physical abuse. We know the feeling of loneliness parents sometimes feel when they are focusing on their children’s health and development needs. And we know that juggling family responsibilities and job duties is more than a full plate. We also know that sometimes there are simply feelings of isolation when other family members and friends are experiencing the same demands and can’t help out.

But happily what we also know is that home visiting programs such as Healthy Families America – Prevent Child Abuse America’s signature prevention program – go a long way to reducing stress and isolation, and that these programs are enhanced when working in tandem with other effective strategies, for example, those focused on addressing maternal depression or substance abuse.

It turns out that in comparing data from California from 1995-2011 – where paid family leave was introduced in 2004 – to states where it wasn’t, there was a decline for abuse-related head injuries in children under two, and during the Great Recession from 2007-2009, these rates stayed stable even as they climbed in the states that did not have paid family leave.

Further, these findings exist, “despite low use of paid family leave,” and while these finding cannot prove a cause-and-effect relationship, these results do provide “positive” evidence that paid family leave may have a beneficial impact.

These results provide us with an opening to have even greater impact and some clear calls to action:

  • We must ask our legislatures to support further studies so that we can understand the dynamics and implications when these polices are in place;
  • If the results continue to be positive, and a cause-and-effect relationship can be established, we must advocate to expand of these policies nationwide in a manner that make sense to employers and their employees alike; and,
  • We must continue to pursue additional explorations in to what else works, and under what conditions, so we can prevent abuse and neglect before it ever occurs.

“We must be cautious when we see these results, because there is certainly more to learn when it comes to paid family leave and the prevention of child abuse and neglect,” says James M. Hmurovich, President & CEO, Prevent Child Abuse America. “But we can also take a moment to celebrate this encouraging piece of news. That said, as a nation, we need to learn more and prioritize policies that work for our communities, our employers and specifically for our children because all children deserve great childhoods because children are our future.”

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