Alleviating parental depression

A new article published in BMC Health Services Research looks at the impact of the Incredible Years (IY) parenting programmes on parental depression and service use. IY aims to reduce conduct disorder in children and depression in their parents, two issues that are often apparent in the same family. Recent trials in the UK and Ireland have focused on the effects of the programme on children, but less was known about the effects on parents.

The authors explored parental depression and service use (and the associated costs) after attending a 12-week, group-based IY Basic Parenting programme. They conducted a secondary analysis of data gathered in a randomised controlled trial (RCT) of the programme. The original RCT sample consisted of 153 (Intervention N=104, Control N=49) parents of children aged 3–4 years old (at baseline) living in 11 disadvantaged Sure Start areas in north and mid Wales.

Depression scores were compared over time for the intervention and control groups. The authors found that parental depression decreased at six months for both the intervention and control groups; however, this decrease was only significant for the intervention group. The differences between intervention and control groups were not significant.

The article also looked at service use costs (primary services such as GPs and health visitors; social services; and hospital services). The parents in the trial accessed a high number of services, particularly in primary health. Total mean costs of service use for the intervention group increased at six and eighteen months post-baseline; however, costs decreased at twelve months post-baseline. Parents who scored above the “clinical level” of self-reported depression in both the intervention and control groups accessed more health and social services than those who were below the clinical level for concern.

Source: Parental Depression and Child Conduct Problems: Evaluation of Parental Service Use and Associated Costs After Attending the Incredible Years Basic Parenting Programme (2014), BMC Health Services Research, 13.

Improving outcomes for children and their parents

A new article published in European Child Adolescent Psychiatry indicates that parent-focused interventions, implemented in the early years, can result in improvements in child and parent behaviour and well-being 12 months later, as well as a possible reduced reliance on formal services.

The article describes an evaluation of the effectiveness of the Incredible Years Basic parenting programme (IYBP) in reducing child conduct problems and improving parent competencies and mental health. A total of 103 families and their children (between ages 2 and 7), who previously participated in a randomised controlled trial of the IYBP, took part in a 12-month follow-up assessment. Child and parent behaviour and well-being were measured using psychometric and observational measures. Pre- to post-intervention service use and related costs were also analysed.

Results indicate that post-intervention improvements in child conduct problems, parenting behaviour, and parental mental health were maintained, while service use and associated costs continued to decline.

Source: Reducing Child Conduct Disordered Behaviour and Improving Parent Mental Health in Disadvantaged Families: A 12-month Follow-up and Cost Analysis of a Parenting Intervention (2014), European Child Adolescent Psychiatry.

Mindfulness programme shows promise

A study of the Mindfulness in Schools Project (MiSP) has shown that it reduces depressive symptoms, lowers stress, and increases well-being in teenagers.

The MiSP programme is a complex intervention that includes elements for young people who are stressed and experiencing mental health difficulties, for those in the normal range of mental health, and for those who are flourishing. It consists of nine lessons given weekly. A non-randomised controlled feasibility study matched six secondary schools teaching the MiSP programme with similar schools. Pupils aged 12-16 took part in the programme and were tested before the intervention, after the intervention (two months later), and at follow-up (three months later). After the intervention, there was strong evidence of lower depression scores for those receiving the MiSP programme. At follow-up, there was evidence of increased well-being, lower stress, and lower depression scores.

The authors say that the next step should be a randomised control trial, with longer follow-ups, to examine key processes and outcomes, and pay close attention to generalisability.

Source: Effectiveness of the Mindfulness in Schools Programme: Non-randomised Controlled Feasibility Study (2013), The British Journal of Psychiatry.

Incredible Years achieves “proven” rating

Incredible Years is a suite of programmes that target children up to age 12 who are at risk of, or who are exhibiting, conduct problems. The series has been given an overall rating of “proven” in a new programme summary from the Promising Practices Network, the highest rating they apply. The summary notes that studies of Incredible Years have generally focused on short-term effects, but that the handful of longer-term studies reviewed did show some significant extended effects of the programme. You can find out more about Incredible Years at the IEE conference, when Tracey Bywater (IEE), and Kevin Lawrence (Children’s Services Manager, Barnardo’s Cymru) will be running a session on the programme.

Source: Programs that work, Promising Practices Network.

What makes children stressed?

A new research report from the Childhood Wellbeing Research Centre looks at family “stressors” and the impact on children’s outcomes. The authors look at whether particular life events are especially detrimental, whether they have an impact across different outcomes (educational, social, etc), and whether the effects of early childhood events persist into adolescence. They also look at the association between family factors and outcomes.

The findings of the report are broad, especially as different family factors can be associated with different types of outcomes. Key findings include that extremely stressful events, such as homelessness, victimisation, or abuse, can have long-term effects on children’s outcomes. Some stressful events have an impact on children’s emotional and social well-being but not their educational outcomes, and so their negative impacts may be harder to pick up.

The authors point out that in order to target interventions, it is important to understand which family circumstances are significant for child well-being at different ages, and how that varies across outcomes.

Source: Family stressors/ early risk factors that cause detriment to children’s wellbeing and possibilities for early intervention (2012), Childhood Wellbeing Research Centre

Moving to a “better” postcode isn’t the answer

A randomised experiment has explored whether or not where you live has an effect on life chances. Between 1994 and 1998, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Moving to Opportunity (MTO) for Fair Housing programme recruited more than 4,600 families with children living in severely distressed public housing projects in five cities (Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York City). Some MTO families were offered the opportunity to use a housing voucher to move into private-market housing in wealthier neighbourhoods, while the others were not.

New research, led by researchers from the US National Bureau of Economic Research, outlines the long-term (10-15 years) impact of the MTO programme on children who were approximately 11 years old or younger at baseline. They discovered few detectable effects on achievement, education, employment, and a range of other health and risky behaviour outcomes. However, there were some encouraging effects on mental health, primarily for girls and young women.

Source: The long-term effects of moving to opportunity on youth outcomes (2013), US Department of Housing and Urban Development, 14(2)