Date of Award

Spring 5-9-2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)


Public Health

First Advisor

Dr. John R. Lutzker

Second Advisor

Dr. Shanta R. Dube

Third Advisor

Ms. Kate Guastaferro



Children who are victims of maltreatment often suffer from a lack of physical, emotional and linguistic stimulation from their caregivers. This prolonged lack of stimulation has the potential to result in language delays that can have lasting negative effects on children including behavioral problems, psychiatric conditions, an increased risk for adult long-term health sequela, and criminality and violent behavior. Research suggests that children who live in low socio-economic homes have significantly less linguistic stimulation than children who live in moderate to high-income brackets. Language Environment Analysis (LENA) technology is a device through which the language environment of the infant and mother can be captured and quantified. The mechanism records parental utterances (words spoken around the child); child vocalizations (including typical infant babble); conversational turns (verbal exchanges between parent and infant); and, time spent near televisions. SafeCare, an evidence-based family support program, aims to reduce child maltreatment by increasing bonding behaviors between parent and infant. Through implementation of the Parent-Infant Interaction module, parents are taught important bonding behaviors with their infants. What is yet to be evaluated is the quantifiable effect implementation of PII has on the language environment of families at-risk for maltreatment. The LENA device was utilized in this quasi-experimental research design to assess parental utterances pre-and postimplementation of SafeCare. Maternal utterances include adult word count, child vocalizations and conversational turns. Results from this exploratory research may have implications for future modifications to SafeCare, as well as to other family support programs aimed at child maltreatment prevention.