Testing the ‘incredible’ route to children’s and parents’ wellbeing

Published Monday 16 March 2015 at 13:18

Two Lancashire organisations are to take part in a pioneering research project led by the University of York to evaluate new programmes aimed at improving the social and emotional wellbeing of children under two and their parents.

Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council and Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust are partners in a four-year project led by the Institute for Effective Education (IEE) at York to evaluate the effectiveness and acceptability of Incredible Years (IY) Parent Programmes for 0-2 year-olds. Evidence from research around the world suggests that the BASIC IY programme — for parents of children aged 3+ years — enhances child and parent wellbeing. The more recently developed IY parent programmes for infants and toddlers have shown promising results in two small trials in Wales and Boston, US, yet have not yet been rigorously evaluated in England.

The study will feature an 18-month randomised pilot in Devon and Lancashire followed by a 30-month main randomised trial in four local authority areas. It will involve a total of 900 families and will seek to assess the impact of IY particularly on those parents and carers at risk of developing depression.

A group of 650 primary carers will receive IY interventions while a comparison group of 250 will be able to access services typically offered in their locality for this age range. Intervention group parents, along with co-parents, or other significant carers such as grandparents, will receive varying levels of IY proportionate to their needs.

The researchers will assess the primary outcomes when children are around 20 months old. These will focus on the child’s social and emotional wellbeing, and wellbeing among primary carers, co-parents and other significant carers.

The study will also assess parenting skills; parent-child attachment and interaction; parent and child access to health and social services; child behaviour; child language; quality of IY programme delivery; and health-related quality of life and cost.

The project is backed by a £1.85 million grant from the NIHR (National Institute for Health Research). The study also includes co-investigators from the universities of Plymouth, Central Lancashire, Sheffield, and Maynooth and involves Action for Children.

Blackburn with Darwen Council’s Executive Member for Children’s Services, Cllr Frank Connor, said:

“We know that the ages of 0 to 2 are a crucial time in children’s development. We are working to raise parents’ awareness and understanding of the importance of this life stage and the things they can do, like talking, singing and reading to their children, so we’re delighted to be part of this research project and see the impact this is having.”

Debra Wilson, Clinical Lead Universal Services from Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust said:

“As a health and wellbeing organisation it is important to us to be able to identify any needs our service users may have. Having suitable resources and support to ensure a children’s development during the early years is vital and we are thrilled to be partners in this research and look forward to seeing the outcomes.”

The multi-disciplinary research team aim to Dr Tracey Bywater, of IEE at York, who is leading the study, said:

“The home environment, and particularly parent practices and mental health of both mothers and fathers can impact significantly on a child’s social and emotional wellbeing and behaviour. Early experiences affect outcomes in later life such as educational attainment, and the ability to form secure relationships.

“There is considerable evidence to show that early mental health promotion is more effective, and less costly to the individual and to society, than late intervention. Our study will address an important knowledge gap by investigating the potential of two new IY parent programmes for the ‘under twos’ in the short, medium and possibly longer term.”

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