Parenting interventions shown to improve children’s behaviour over long term periods

A new study, following on from a review carried out in 2012, shows that parenting interventions continue to have a positive impact over the longer term.

In the original 2012 study, the Department for Education used a randomised controlled trial known as Helping Children Achieve (HCA) to study the short term effects of two different parenting interventions with parents of 5-7 year olds.

One group of families received support from the Incredible Years Programme, designed to work with behaviour and improve relationships; while another received the Supporting Parents on Kids Education in Schools Programme, an intervention designed to improve literacy. A third group received both interventions.

The results of the 2012 study showed improvements in behaviour for all three groups after a 9 to 11-month period, when compared to a control group who had received neither intervention. One unexpected outcome of the trial was that only those children who had worked with the Incredible Years Programme had seen an improvement in their reading, despite its focus on behaviour and relationships.

A follow up study, led by Professor Stephen Scott and funded by the Nuffield Foundation, looks at how these families have fared two years down the line at the ages of 7-9. The results show that the reduction in problem behaviour had been successfully sustained over the long term, suggesting that tackling difficult behaviour at an early age can have a lasting positive impact. In summarising the original report, the new report also notes that the programme designed to work with literacy had not been successful, highlighting the value of robust evidence on the effectiveness of specific programmes.

Perhaps most significantly, the improvements in behaviour were universally positive, regardless of parents’ level of education, mental health, and whether the children lived in a one- or two-parent home. This suggests that attainment gaps can be successfully addressed with the use of effective parenting programmes and that a wide range of parents can be willing to engage when given the opportunity to work with parenting interventions.

Read the new report (Nuffield Foundation).

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Early childhood programs lead to better adult health

The long-term benefits for disadvantaged children who attend high-quality early years programs have long been known to include better qualifications, higher adult earnings and lower involvement in crime. But a groundbreaking study shows how the positive outcomes can extend to physical health – including lower levels of obesity and reduced risks of heart disease.

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Lack of graduates in early years settings puts disadvantaged children at risk

A new report has found a quality gap in nurseries and pre-schools serving children and families in disadvantaged areas.

The report, Quality and Inequality: do three- and four-year-olds in deprived areas experience lower quality early years provision, was carried out by researchers at the University of Oxford and published by the Nuffield Foundation. Analysing data on over 1,000 private, voluntary and independent (PVI) nurseries and 169 state-run providers, the results show that the discrepancy is only apparent with the PVI settings.

This gap is thought to be related to the number of graduates working in early years settings. Where all state-run classes run from primary schools are led by a graduate teacher, less than half of PVI settings employ a graduate, and as few as eight percent employ more than one graduate. Settings in disadvantaged areas showed that the quality gap from their wealthier counterparts was reduced where a graduate was employed.

The quality gap was found to be most significant in language skills, where children from lower socio-economic groups are already at a disadvantage, sometimes falling a year behind children from more affluent backgrounds.

The report recommends the continuation of state-run provision, and suggests that PVI settings take advantage of the Early Years pupil premium, announced in March, to recruit more graduates. It also supports the Teaching Schools Initiative, which encourages schools with poor performance to work with stronger schools to improve their work.

Sandra Mathers, the lead author of the report, said: “This research highlights the challenges involved in ensuring that the children most in need of good quality early years provision actually receive it. It is vital that we equip nurseries and preschools with the tools and support they need to help disadvantaged children overcome the odds and reach their full potential.”

Download the report (Nuffield Foundation).

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