An extensive European trial has shown that incorporating The University of Queensland’s Triple P – Positive Parenting Program into a home visiting program can improve children’s cognitive development.
UQ Parenting and Family Support Centre Director Professor Matt Sanders said a University College Dublin evaluation of the Preparing for life program in a disadvantaged area in Dublin showed that improving the way a child was raised could help reduce inequality.
“Children grow up with different levels of advantage, but this trial shows that we can offer them some resilience to the effects of growing up in poverty by giving their parents the confidence to parent well,’’ he said.
Professor Sanders said the seven-year randomised control trial investigated a five-year Preparing for life home visiting program in Ireland, in which mentors were also trained in delivering Triple P and a baby massage program.
“Preparing for life offered mentoring for families in a disadvantaged area in Dublin by offering parents high-quality information about parenting and child development,” he said.
The home visits started in pregnancy at 21 weeks and continued until the child started school at age four or five.
A high treatment group received the full intervention, compared to a low-treatment group which did not receive the mentoring program, Triple P or the baby massage program.
Fifty of the 115 families in the high treatment group in the trial also participated in either Group or Primary Care Triple P or Triple P Discussion Group, and all families in the high treatment group were exposed to Triple P during home visits.
“Consequently, the principles and techniques of Triple P influenced the way in which mentors encouraged parents to interact with their children,” Professor Sanders said.
He said the evaluation found that children in the high treatment group had a 10-point IQ gap over children in the low treatment group.
Other major impacts when the children were at school entry age included:
- 25 per cent of high treatment children had above-average verbal ability, compared to eight per cent of low treatment children
- High treatment children were better able to control their attention
- 25 per cent of high treatment children were not on track in their social competence compared to 43 per cent of low treatment children
- High treatment children had better gross and fine motor skills
Professor Sanders will deliver a keynote address on competent parenting at the School Psychologists Association of Western Australia annual conference in Perth.