Long-term effects of targeted prevention programmes for families with young children

Ulrich, Susanne Marlene/Lux, Ulrike/Liel, Christoph/Walper, Sabine (2022):
Long-term effects of targeted prevention programmes for families with young children. A population-based study on parenting stress and children's negative emotionality.
In: Child: Care, Health and Development
Jahrg.: 48, H. 5, S. 763-771

Background: Many prevention programmes for families focus parental adversities and adverse childhood experiences. Effects of such programmes are often examined in clinical trials; there is less research on effects under naturalistic conditions. The aim of this study was to examine the longitudinal association between parenting stress and child's negative emotionality, its modification through targeted prevention programmes, and to investigate the effects in the general population. Methods: Data were taken from a sample of n = 903 families with infants (mean age: 13.3 months) who participated in a baseline study (T1) and a follow-up study (T2) 2 years later. The survey included parental self-report measurements on parenting stress and child's negative emotionality (T1 and T2 each) and targeted prevention programmes (T1 only). An autoregressive cross-lagged panel design was used to analyse the association of parenting stress and the child's negative emotionality, including use of targeted prevention programmes as moderator. We also tested if targeted prevention programmes can reduce parenting stress or child's negative emotionality using Propensity Score Matching (PSM). Results: Parenting stress at T1 affected children's negative emotionality at T2, but children's negative emotionality at T1 did not affect parenting stress at T2. When targeted prevention was included as moderator, the correlation disappeared among programme users. With PSM, there was no direct effect on parenting stress or child's negative emotionality. But a subsample of parents with high parenting stress at T1 who used targeted prevention at T1 reported less child's negative emotionality problems at T2 than parents who scored high in parenting stress but did not receive targeted prevention at T1. Conclusion: Results suggest that the spillover from parenting stress to child's negative emotionality may be modified by prevention. Prevention programmes may help to build resources and have a direct positive effect on the child, especially for parents with high parenting stress.