Published: 16 March 2021
A home-based parenting programme to prevent childhood behaviour problems, which unusually focuses on children when they are still just toddlers, has proven highly successful in its first public health trial funded by the NIHR.
The six-session programme involves providing carefully-prepared feedback to parents about how they can build on positive moments when playing and engaging with their child using video clips of everyday interactions, which are filmed by a health professional while visiting their home.
The programme, known as the Video-feedback Intervention to promote Positive Parenting and Sensitive Discipline (VIPP-SD), is delivered across six home visits, each lasting about 90 minutes.
Researchers from the University of Cambridge and Imperial College London are testing out the video based approach as part of a wider project called ‘Healthy Start, Happy Start’.
The trial is one of the first ever ‘real-world’ tests of an intervention of its kind and was carried out by health professionals at six NHS Trusts in England, involving 300 families whose children had shown early signs of behaviour problems.
Half of the families received the programme alongside routine healthcare support, while the other half received routine support alone. When assessed five months later, the children whose families had access to the video-feedback approach displayed significantly reduced behavioural problems compared with those whose families had not.
All of the children were aged just one or two: far younger than the age at which interventions for behaviour problems are normally available. The results, published in JAMA Pediatrics suggest that providing tailored support for parents of children displaying challenging behaviour at this earlier stage, would significantly reduce the chances of those problems worsening.
Paul Ramchandani, Professor of Play in Education, Development and Learning at the University of Cambridge, said: “To provide this programme in any health service would require investment, but it can realistically be delivered as part of routine care. Doing so would benefit a group of children who are at risk of going on to have problems with their education, behaviour, future wellbeing and mental health. There is a chance here to invest early and alleviate those difficulties now, potentially preventing problems in the longer term that are far worse.”
The Healthy Start, Happy Start project is also reviewing further data from the project – including assessments of the children two years after the trial – which will be reported at a later date.
The project was funded the NIHR Health Technology Programme.