London, Feb 1 : A parenting programme, designed by researchers from the Centre for Community Child Health (CCCH) and the Parenting Research Centre to prevent early child behaviour problems, has shown very little impact on toddler conduct.
Behaviour problems affect up to 20 per cent of children and have major personal, societal and economic consequences. If left untreated, up to half of behaviour problems in preschool children can develop into later mental health problems.
The study was conducted at CCCH in Melbourne, Australia. With input from maternal and child health nurses, researchers designed a programme suitable for all parents to be delivered by trained health professionals in primary care.
The programme aimed to prevent child behaviour problems, such as defiance and aggression, and improve parenting and maternal mental health, reports the British Medical Journal.
In the study, over 700 mothers of 8 month-old infants participated and were randomised to either the programme, which was three sessions at age 8-15 months, or usual care from their local Maternal and Child Health centre.
Mothers were surveyed throughout the study and their mental health was assessed when their children reached 18 and 24 months.
At 18 months, child behaviour and parenting scores were similar between the two groups. By age 24 months, parents on the programme were less likely to report harsh or abusive parenting and unreasonable expectations of child development, but there was no improvement in maternal distress or toddler behaviour.
The researchers said that that the outcomes of the study are insufficient to support widespread introduction of this programme to prevent toddler behaviour problems.
The study is published in bmj.com.