Researchers find 5 programs to help parents and children at risk levels behavior problems

Published on December 16, 2013 at 11:52 PM · No Comments

All parents want what's best for their children. But not every parent knows how to provide their child with the tools to be successful, or how to help them avoid the biggest adolescent behavior problems: substance use, delinquency, school dropout, pregnancy and violence.

These problems can affect children for the rest of their lives. University of Washington researchers evaluated about 20 parenting programs and found five that are especially effective at helping parents and children at all risk levels avoid adolescent behavior problems that affect not only individuals, but entire communities.

"With these programs, you see marked decreases in drug use, reduced aggression, reduced depression and anxiety, and better mental health," said Kevin Haggerty, assistant director of the UW's Social Development Research Group in the School of Social Work.

"You see the impact of when parents get on the same page and work together to provide an environment that promotes wellbeing. You can make long-term impacts."

The study is published in the current issue of the Journal of Children's Services.

Haggerty said it's ironic that parents spend hours taking birthing classes to prepare for something that will happen naturally, yet there is no training on how to actually parent a child. He took a parenting workshop years ago and said learning how to deal with conflict changed his family's dynamic.

"All of us need a little help parenting," Haggerty said. "It's a tough job and we didn't get the instruction manual when our kids were born."

The programs recommended by Haggerty and his co-authors are effective with a wide variety of families in diverse settings. All five programs are consistent with the Social Development Model, which focuses on fostering opportunities, skills, rewards for positive social behaviors, bonding and clear expectations for behavior.

The programs include changing known risk factors such as poor parental supervision and high family conflict, and show children what "normal" family behavior looks like. The programs also have scientific evidence showing that they work.

Nurse-Family Partnership sends registered nurses to visit young, first-time, single mothers at least once every two weeks during their first pregnancy and until their child is 2 years old. Nurses help expecting moms reduce smoking, drinking and drug use. After the child is born, nurses help mothers create safe environments for their children and develop strategies for dealing with difficult behaviors.

Positive Parenting Program is a flexible system of programs that focuses on five main goals: promoting safe and engaging environments, creating positive learning environments, using effective discipline, creating clear and reasonable expectations, and self-care for parents.

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