The child-parent relationship has a major influence on most aspects of child development. When optimal, parenting skills and behaviors have a positive impact on children’s self-esteem, school achievement, cognitive development, and behavior.
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There is abundant research linking parental behavior to child health and development. Brooks-Gunn recently summarized the research as showing that language stimulation and learning materials in the home are the parenting practices most strongly linked to school readiness, vocabulary and early school achievement, while parent discipline strategies and nurturance are most strongly linked to social and emotional outcomes such as behavior and impulse control and attention (Kreider, programs .Gunn,2004)Research Context:
The evidence on the effectiveness of parent support programs at producing better outcomes for children is relatively limited, primarily because of the quality rather than the quantity of evaluation studies. That is, only a few studies have employed strong designs, either experiment in which families are randomly assigned to receive parent support services or to receive no systematic services or strong quasi-experimental designs with well-constructed comparison groups. It is believed that the absence of compelling research evidence on program impacts on children has left the door open for differing interpretations of the evidence and differing conclusions about the effectiveness of family support programs (Abt Associates Inc.; 2001).
Key Research Questions:
- Whether parent support programs have been effective at changing parents’ attitudes or behaviors?
- Are these changes can be shown, the subsequent research question is whether these changes in parents lead to improved outcomes for children in the cognitive domain or in the child’s social and emotional development?
- What types of programs are most effective? That is, do the programs that are more effective have elements in common, such as types of services, types of staff, methods of service delivery, etc.?
- What works for whom: Are there types of parent support that are more effective for different types of children and families?
Recent Research Results:
A comprehensive meta-analysis of the effects of parent support programs summarizes child outcome data for parents and children from evaluations of moreprograms.A comprehensive meta-analysis of the effects of parent support programs summarizes child outcome data for parents and children from evaluations of more than 200 programs.6 The average effects on parents varied by the outcome domain. The strongest effects were on parenting behaviour and parenting attitudes/knowledge, where the average effect size was .24 (a quarter of a standard deviation on the scale on which the outcome is measured). Program effects on family functioning and parent mental health were smaller, with average effect sizes below .20. The effect sizes were strongly influenced by a handful of programs with very large effects. Across the program evaluations, the effect sizes for the majority of programs clustered around 0-.15 of a standard deviation (s.d.). The larger average effect was produced by between 20 and 25% of the programs that had effect sizes larger than .5 (which is considered to represent a moderate-to-large effect). The parent support programs had effects for children as well. The programs looked at a wide variety of outcomes in both the cognitive and social-emotional domains. In the domain of social and emotional development, the average effect was .22; for cognitive development, it was .29. The average effect was largest for preschool children’s programs (average = .39 s.d.). The majority of parent support programs had very small effect sizes for child outcomes, clustered around 0-.15 of a standard deviation. (Abt Associates Inc.; 2001)
This meta-analysis also showed that programs that combine parent support services and early childhood education also have larger-than-average effects on both parents and children. This finding from the meta-analysis has been corroborated by the evidence that many of the early childhood education interventions that have been shown to have long-term effects provide early childhood education and family support services.3.4.5
- Kreider H. A conversation with Jeanne Brooks-Gunn. The Evaluation Exchange Winter 2004/2005;10(4):12-13. Available at: http://www.gse.harvard.edu/hfrp/content/eval/issue28/winter2004-2005.pdf. Accessed April 4, 2005.
- Layzer JI, Goodson BD, Bernstein L, Price C. National evaluation of family support programs. Volume A: The meta-analysis. Final report. Cambridge, Mass: Abt Associates Inc.; 2001. Available at: http://www.abtassociates.com/reports/NEFSP-VolA.pdf. Accessed April 4, 2005.
- Yoshikawa H. Long-term effects of early childhood programs on social outcomes and delinquency. The Future of Children 1995;5(3):51-75. Available at: http://www.futureofchildren.org/usr_doc/vol5no3ART3.pdf. Accessed April 4, 2005.
- Zigler E, Taussig C, Black K. Early childhood intervention: A promising preventative for juvenile delinquency. American Psychologist 1992;47(8):997-1006.
- Seitz V. Intervention programs for impoverished children: A comparison of educational and family support models. In: Vasta R, ed. Annals of child development: A research annual, vol. 7. Philadelphia, Pa: Jessica Kingsley Publishers; 1990:73-103.