Ernest Jouriles and Renee McDonald of Southern Methodist University in Dallas say parenting improved in impoverished, neglectful, abusive mothers after home visits, classes and emotional support from therapists.
The study, published in the Journal of Family Psychology, says large improvements in mothers' parenting were observed in families given instruction and emotional support compared to families that did not receive the services.
The researchers report mothers who had intensive, hands-on training did a better job managing their children's behavior, were observed using better parenting strategies and their families were less likely to be reported again for child abuse.
"Although there are many types of services for addressing child maltreatment, there is very little scientific data about whether the services actually work," McDonald says in a statement.
"This study adds to our scientific knowledge and shows that this type of service can actually work."