Cluster randomised-control trial for an Australian child protection education program: Study protocol for the Learn to be safe with Emmy and friends™

White, Codi, Shanley, Dianne C., Zimmer-Gembeck, Melanie J., Lines, Katrina, Walsh, Kerryann, & Hawkins, Russell (2016) Cluster randomised-control trial for an Australian child protection education program: Study protocol for the Learn to be safe with Emmy and friends™. BMC Public Health, 16(72), pp. 1-7.

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Child maltreatment has severe short-and long-term consequences for children’s health, development, and wellbeing. Despite the provision of child protection education programs in many countries, few have been rigorously evaluated to determine their effectiveness. We describe the design of a multi-site gold standard evaluation of an Australian school-based child protection education program. The intervention has been developed by a not-for-profit agency and comprises 5 1-h sessions delivered to first grade students (aged 5–6 years) in their regular classrooms. It incorporates common attributes of effective programs identified in the literature, and aligns with the Australian education curriculum.


A three-site cluster randomised controlled trial (RCT) of Learn to be safe with Emmy and friends™ will be conducted with children in approximately 72 first grade classrooms in 24 Queensland primary (elementary) schools from three state regions, over a period of 2 years. Entire schools will be randomised, using a computer generated list of random numbers, to intervention and wait-list control conditions, to prevent contamination effects across students and classes. Data will be collected at baseline (pre-assessment), immediately after the intervention (post-assessment), and at 6-, 12-, and 18-months (follow-up assessments). Outcome assessors will be blinded to group membership. Primary outcomes assessed are children’s knowledge of program concepts; intentions to use program knowledge, skills, and help-seeking strategies; actual use of program material in a simulated situation; and anxiety arising from program participation. Secondary outcomes include a parent discussion monitor, parent observations of their children’s use of program materials, satisfaction with the program, and parental stress. A process evaluation will be conducted concurrently to assess program performance.


This RCT addresses shortcomings in previous studies and methodologically extends research in this area by randomising at school-level to prevent cross-learning between conditions; providing longer-term outcome assessment than any previous study; examining the degree to which parents/guardians discuss intervention content with children at home; assessing potential moderating/mediating effects of family and child demographic variables; testing an in-vivo measure to assess children’s ability to discriminate safe/unsafe situations and disclose to trusted adults; and testing enhancements to existing measures to establish greater internal consistency.

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ID Code: 93633
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Keywords: prevention, child sexual abuse, child protection education, school-based program, cluster randomised controlled trial, protocol
DOI: 10.1186/s12889-016-2721-x
ISSN: 1471-2458
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Children & Youth Research Centre
Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Education
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2016 The Author(s)
Copyright Statement: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0
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Deposited On: 13 Mar 2016 22:50
Last Modified: 27 Jun 2017 07:01

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