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Mentoring parents improves children’s IQ, Health and Behaviour

Posted by Schooldays Newshound, on 17/05/2016. Mentoring parents improves children’s IQ, Health and BehaviourTags: Parenting

Parenting intervention causes a 10 point increase in IQ by age four.

A major parent and family intervention programme trialled in North Dublin has had a dramatic impact in improving outcomes for children and families.

The first in a series of results from the Preparing for Life early childhood programme were announced today and show dramatic impacts on children’s IQ, obesity levels and social behaviour, as well as parenting skills and the home learning environment.

The evaluation of the programme shows that by age four the IQ scores of the intervention group children were 10 points higher than the control group. 13% of the intervention group children scored below average for cognitive development at age four compared to 57% of the control group.

The children whose parents received the intervention were also less likely to be overweight (23% compared to 41%) and had fewer behavioural problems (2% compared to 17%). Further findings show that intervention children were more likely to receive their recommended dietary allowance of protein (33% compared to 23%) and were immunised earlier.

The study is one of the first of its kind ever carried out in Ireland or Europe. It focused on intensively mentoring parents, in areas with low levels of school readiness, and worked with them from midway through pregnancy until their children stared Primary School.

The intervention was delivered in Dublin 17 and Dublin 5 by Preparing for Life, a part of the Northside Partnership, and evaluated by a team at the Geary Institute for Public Policy at University College Dublin using a randomised control trial.

Lead researcher for the study, Dr. Orla Doyle of the Geary Institute / School of Economics, said the results were both statistically significant and practically meaningful.

“The Preparing for Life study included 233 parents who were randomly allocated into an intervention group or control group. All families received some supports, but the families in the intervention group received intensive parenting supports from pregnancy until their children started Primary School.

“These are all statistically significant and in some cases dramatic results. The programme has changed the life trajectories of these children; they are healthier, smarter and well-adjusted. The results show that developing the skills and knowledge of parents is a particularly effective and impactful approach to changing and improving outcomes for children, ” Dr. Doyle said.

Parents taking part in the programme received approximately 50 home visits from trained mentors during the programme cycle. The programme supported parents at each stage of their child’s development by providing tip sheets on age appropriate topics.

Mentors introduced new topics through a combination of role modelling, demonstration, coaching, discussion, encouragement and feedback. The parents also had the opportunity to participate in a Triple P positive parenting course when their children reached age two.

To chart the impact of the programme, parents in both groups took part in research visits involving questionnaires, observations and direct assessments when their children were 6, 12,
18, 24, 36 and 48 months old.

Preparing for Life Manager Noel Kelly thanked the parents and children who took part in the programme and the Geary Institute for Public Policy.

He called on the new Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Katherine Zappone, and decision makers in the Department of Children and Youth Affairs, to review the results and to adopt Preparing for Life as a proven intervention which could be applied in other communities faced with school readiness challenges.

“Investment in supports for parents should be channelled towards programmes which have the strongest evidence of effectiveness and impact. This is a manualised programme and has the potential to be replicated in other communities in Ireland which have similar needs. Now that the programme has been developed, trialed, evaluated and manualised we estimate that it would cost at most €2, 000 per family per year to deliver.”

“We believe that parents are the most important resource we have to improve child outcomes. By investing in and enabling parents, Preparing for Life has demonstrated that it is possible to significantly transform children’s lives, ” he said.

The programme is a community-led prevention and early intervention initiative operated by Northside Partnership. It was established in 2007 with funding from The Atlantic Philanthropies and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs through the Prevention and Early Intervention Programme (PEIP).

Preparing for Life recently received a further allocation of funding from both funders to continue its work until August 2017.

A summary of the findings with more data and figures is at

NOTE: The full evaluation of the Preparing for Life programme includes six constituent evaluation reports. This launch includes the release of a policy briefing on the impact of the programme from birth to 48 months. Further findings from the research will be launched in June and in September.


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