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.
Project aims and objectives
This research project – known as the E-SEE trial (Enhancing Social and Emotional health and wellbeing in the Early years) – will evaluate two programmes that aim to improve the social and emotional wellbeing of children under two years and their parents. The four-year project is backed by a £1.85 million grant from the NIHR (National Institute for Health Research). The study includes investigators from the universities of York, Plymouth, Central Lancashire, Sheffield, and Maynooth. Initial delivery partners include Action for Children, Virgin Care, Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust, and Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council.
The multi-disciplinary research team aim to evaluate the effectiveness and acceptability of Incredible Years (IY) Parent Programmes for 0-2 year olds. The Incredible Years series was first developed in the USA in the 1970s by Professor Carolyn Webster-Stratton and now comprises programmes for parents of 0-12 year-olds, with complementary programmes for children and teachers. 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, USA, but 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, 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 study has a dedicated project website that will be updated during the study.
Morpeth L, Blower S, Tobin K, Taylor RS, Bywater T, Edwards RT, Axford N, Lehtonen M, Jones C, Berry V. The effectiveness of the Incredible Years pre-school parenting programme in the United Kingdom: a pragmatic randomised controlled trial. Child Care in Practice (2017)