Parenting Program Does Not Improve Children's Behavior

February 1, 2008

A universal parenting program aimed at avoiding behavioral problems in early childhood may help parents feel better about their parenting style, but does not produce concrete improvements in their children's behavior or improve maternal mental health, according to research published Jan. 31 in BMJ Online First.

FRIDAY, Feb. 1 (HealthDay News) -- A universal parenting program aimed at avoiding behavioral problems in early childhood may help parents feel better about their parenting style, but does not produce concrete improvements in their children's behavior or improve maternal mental health, according to research published Jan. 31 in BMJ Online First.

Harriet Hiscock M.D., of the Royal Children's Hospital in Parkville, Australia, and colleagues conducted a study of 656 English-speaking mothers with 8-month-old babies who were randomized to receive no intervention or a three-session program when their child was between 8 months and 15 months of age, on normal development and behavior as well as parent-effectiveness training to encourage desired behavior and discourage unwanted behavior in the children.

In both groups, the behavior scores of the children at the two-year mark were similar, as were maternal mental health and nurturing parenting scores. Harsh and abusive parenting as well as unreasonable expectations of child development were reported less frequently in the intervention group versus the control group.

"This is the first trial to evaluate a parenting program delivered with a truly universal, as opposed to high-risk, sample, involving the full spectrum of social advantage through disadvantage," the authors write. "Outcomes at two years are insufficient to support widespread introduction of a very early universal program to prevent behavioral problems in toddlers."

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