For four decades, two separate bodies of research have been trying to explain how implementation does – or doesn’t – work. But because one grew from the natural sciences and the other from the social sciences, they’ve developed separately. It’s time for implementation science and policy implementation research to learn from each other.
You've spent 40 weeks dreaming of your sweet little bundle of joy. The first time you held her was as magical as they promised. But as you settle in at home, reality hits. The baby cries all the time. Nothing seems to calm her. Is there hope that either of you will find comfort? There is – at least according to a recent study of a home visiting program for irritable infants from economically stressed families.
Reading is fun. But can it be therapeutic, too? In Canadian schools, reading and discussing stories about childhood problems improved 9-12 year olds’ coping skills and reduced risk factors for anxiety disorders.
Targeted parenting programs consistently prevent and treat child behavior problems – but the results for universal programs are less conclusive. A recent study in Wales of the universally offered Family Links Nurturing Programme shows why it’s hard to pin down effects.
Children who were spanked or smacked as toddlers were twice as likely as similar others who weren’t smacked to have emotional and behavioral problems in their preschool years, a Scottish study found. While the research stops short of proving that smacking harms kids, it points to smacking as a major symptom of a damaging home environment.
While the adverse effects on children of growing up amid chronic poverty are well documented, the impact of the local cost of living on their development has not been paid much attention. Yet this can be significant – calling into question why governments expect “one size” flat-rate welfare provision to “fit all”.
Every year sees more evidence-based interventions enter the children’s services market. Many are promoted on online clearinghouses such as Blueprints for Healthy Youth Development. But isn’t it time that more untried practices were properly tested – and those that really do not work consigned to the trash bin?
When it comes to school-based programs, too much flexibility puts a burden on teachers that they may not be willing or able to carry. Too little flexibility means the program may clash with local needs. How much flexibility is just right?
Imagine learning to talk and read, learning to thread beads, and learning to pay attention. These three skills – examples of language skills, motor skills, and executive function – seem like three distinct developmental areas. So why do problems in one area often forecast problems in another? Researchers are working to understand their shared roots.
Children with a rare disorder called selective mutism find it impossible to speak in certain situations. Long considered hard to treat, children with the condition improved during a three-month program that gradually encouraged them to talk in front of adults.
Aggressive behavior in schools is a problem that can disrupt teaching and learning for all students, not just those that are hostile or engage in fighting. Research in Spain suggests that a socio-emotional learning (SEL) program can help to reduce aggression among youth by increasing their levels of empathy.
Cognitive behavioral programs can help children learn better behavior, especially when their parents are involved. But services that target parents of kids with disruptive behavior often have astonishingly high dropout rates. School-based interventions are a good alternative for hard-to-reach children, a recent study argues.
Poverty and the stress it places on parents are key factors explaining why black and other minority children in America’s disadvantaged neighborhoods are at high risk for school underachievement, antisocial behavior and poor health. An evaluation of the ParentCorps program makes the case for delivering parenting and other preventive support through early years schooling.
When parental relationships break down with mom and dad in acrimonious conflict, it harms kids. Yet couples often find it hard to seek early preventive help when things start to go wrong. Research in the UK highlights the benefits of specialist training for frontline practitioners.
Half a million mothers are served by home visiting programs in the US alone. Thousands of them – in some studies, nearly two-thirds – have depression. They rarely get treatment. A new study suggests that home visiting could bring treatment to them with a cognitive behavioral therapy approach.
Parenting programs help improve parenting skills and children’s behavior in the short term – but do the effects last? They can, says a study in Ireland among disadvantaged families. 12 months after the program, parents were still happier, able to parent better, and less worried about their kids’ behavior than before the program. What’s more, the cost of other service use fell by 40% - pointing to major long-term savings.
Many early childhood programs improve the prospects of poor and disadvantaged children. Many are also cost-effective. But despite 50 years of development, the effects of these programs remain modest and variable. Could working with adults be a stronger way to help their children? Jack Shonkoff and Phil Fisher argue that it is time to draw on evidence from biology to design, adapt, and scale up far more effective programs.
Childhood brain injuries can not only harm children’s health and development, but also lead to family disruption as parents suffer severe and worsening distress. Research in Australia suggests that a specialist intervention combining two established parenting programs can help.
The potential long-term benefits for disadvantaged children who attend high quality early years programs have long been known to include better qualifications, higher adult earnings and lower involvement in crime. But a groundbreaking study shows how the positive outcomes can extend to physical health – including lower levels of obesity and reduced risks of heart disease.
Resources may be scarce and policy makers might have to make difficult decisions about what to buy. But a more rational strategy that invests early for later benefits would make sometimes nitpicking and frequently complicated comparisons between the value of one "flagship" prevention program and another irrelevant.
The family systems approach that underpins parenting programs such as Multisystemic Therapy, Multidimensional Treatment Foster Care and Functional Family Therapy may have a value in the treatment of juvenile sex offending, psychologists at the Medical University of South Carolina suggest.
Nick Axford explains the differences between English and Welsh approaches to implementing and evaluating Sure Start – and considers the lessons for the future.
Results of introducing an American parenting program to parts of Wales under the aegis of the well-established UK prevention initiative, Sure Start, have been so encouraging that they pose important challenges to makers of UK policy.
A popular program for helping children with language learning difficulties is found to have no impact and even detrimental effects in some cases.
Introduction of year-round schooling with shorter breaks to limit the damage holidays do to the education of poorer children has failed a test in Ohio. "Year-round calendars do not fix the problem of summer learning," the research team reports. "They simply sweep it under the rug of fall, winter, and spring."
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There is more to the international transfer of prevention programs than just hitting the “copy and paste” buttons. The introduction of the Big Brothers Big Sisters mentoring program to Ireland offers insights into how to succeed.
Few people working with children will have heard the term “prevention scientist,” let alone know what one is or does. Yet this relatively new breed of researcher is behind the growing list of evidence-based programs being promoted in western developed countries. A new publication puts them under the microscope.
Crime and antisocial behavior prevention efforts have flourished over the last 10 years in the US. This progress can and should be used to help communities improve the life chances of their young people, a recent update urges.
Given the well-known barriers to implementing evidence-based programs, is it better to identify their discrete elements and trust practitioners to combine them in tailored packages depending on the needs of the child and family in question?