Mental wellness in early childhood

Child Trends has released a new research brief on mental wellness in early childhood. Using research from various sources such as university publications, journal articles, and government websites, they identify five “things to know” to help parents and caregivers lay a solid foundation for healthy childhood development.

  1. Infants experience and perceive a range of emotions. Caregivers may underestimate the degree to which infants’ social-emotional development is affected by early experiences. Although infants as young as six months can “begin to sense and be affected by their parents’ moods,” fewer than 35% of caregivers believe that infants are capable of experiencing emotions in this way.
  2.  Early positive interactions promote emotional wellness throughout the lifespan. Interactions between caregivers and infants are critically important, as “neural connections are formed through the interaction of genes and a baby’s environment and experiences,” especially through communication with caregivers.
  3. Having appropriate expectations of young children’s development is important. Emotional development is a critical component of brain development that is not always emphasised as much as cognitive, physical, or verbal development. Each person’s development is unique, but caregivers should understand general social-emotional milestones – such as copying caregivers’ actions – in order to keep expectations appropriate and monitor potential red flags.
  4.  Parents and caregivers should be mindful of their own emotional well-being, seeking support if they need it. Caregivers who effectively treat their mental illness may lower the effects of the illness on their children.
  5. Young children are resilient and, if properly supported, can overcome potentially traumatic events. Young children may be able to overcome the effects of adverse events through consistent, predictable, supportive interactions.
 
Source: Five Things to Know about Mental Wellness in Early Childhood (2015), Child Trends.

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.