• By Dartington SRU
  • Posted on Wednesday 09th February, 2011

A breakthrough for parenting research

In the US, a large-scale study, led by Washington University in St. Louis, will examine the effectiveness of a specialised version of the positive parenting program Triple-P, aimed at families of children who have been abused or neglected. (See: $2 million grant addresses parents' role in children's behavior Pathways Triple-P is a four-session intervention that is provided over and above the eight to10 week standard or group Triple-P parenting program. The additional sessions teach parents skills for managing their emotions, controlling anger and revising the way that they interpret their child’s behavior.But is there any evidence to support the call for programs specifically designed for families of children at risk of maltreatment or repeat abuse?Sanders and colleagues (2004) ran a pilot evaluation, where they pitted the enhanced intervention against the standard parent training to see whether there it provided any added value in reducing the risk for child maltreatment. Ninety-eight parents of pre-school-aged children were randomly assigned to receive either the enhanced program or the standard Triple-P parenting course provided to groups. The standard program ran for eight weeks, the enhanced program for 12 weeks. Families were interviewed before they received the interventions, directly after the interventions concluded and six months later.The families had received at least one referral to the child protection authority for abuse or neglect and/or they screened above a threshold in their tendency to use anger towards others. Eighty-six families completed their respective interventions; eight dropped out of the enhanced programme, and four out of the standard group. It was expected that the enhanced version of the Triple-P would result in significant improvements in children’s disruptive behaviour, dysfunctional parenting and conflicts between the parents. In fact, the study found that parents in the intervention and control groups’ showed significant improvements on indicators of these outcomes. Interestingly, the groups showed similar reductions when the expression of anger was measured, a key component of the enhanced program. The enhanced program only out-performed the standard parenting training on two indicators. Parents in the enhanced group significantly reduced their unrealistic expectations of their child and showed fewer negative interpretations of the child’s behaviour. This is an encouraging finding for reducing child maltreatment as abusive parents are more likely to blame and perceive behavior as deliberately motivated by the child. Only risk factors for child maltreatment were measured in the 2004 study so there was no indicator of whether maltreatment had actually occurred. The new study of Pathways Triple-P means that there will be an opportunity to test it with substantiated child maltreatment cases. The study will now focus on three questions: whether the program impacts on the behavioral problems of children who have been maltreated; whether it prevents repeat maltreatment and whether it is cost-effective, compared to services as usual within this systemReferencesBarlow, J., Simkiss, D. and Stewart-Brown, S. (2006) Interventions to prevent or ameliorate child physical abuse and neglect: findings from a systematic review of reviews. Journal of Children’s Services, 1 (3), 6-28. Sanders, M., Pidgeon, A., Gravestock, F., Conners, M., Brown, S. & Young, R. (2004) Does parental attributional retraining and anger management enhance the effects of the Triple-P Positive Parenting Program with parents at risk of child maltreatment. Behavior Therapy, 35, 513-535.

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