A new study published in the Journal of Family Systems and Health looked at whether Parenting Journey, a 12-week parenting program based on the principles of family systems theory, helps parents manage stress and improve family strengths. This is the first study of the impact of Parenting Journey on parent-reported outcomes. While there are many parent training programs, researchers say there is still a need for effective supports that can be delivered in the community to parents of different races and backgrounds.
“We were particularly interested in learning whether Parenting Journey could be delivered in the community with fidelity; whether participants in Parenting Journey report decreased parenting stress;” study author Caroline J Kistin, MD, MSc, told us. Kistin is an assistant professor of pediatrics at Boston University School of Medicine and a pediatrician at Boston Medical Center. “We were also interested in whether participation in Parenting Journey impacts parent-reported social and emotional health outcomes.”
The study is titled: Impact of a Community-Delivered Parenting Curriculum on Perceived Parenting Stress and Parent-Reported Outcomes in a Low-Income Diverse Population. The study was authored by Caroline J. Kistin from the Boston Medical Center/Boston University School of Medicine, Sharon Touw, Nora Sporn, and Karen E. Finnegan from the Cambridge Health Alliance in Malden, Massachusetts, and Hannah Collins from the University of California at Berkley.
Parenting Journey has been specifically designed to engage parents in the community. The intervention content aims to help parents reflect on the ways they were raised with an eye towards fostering supportive, nurturing relationships with their own children in the present. The program includes 12, two-hour weekly group sessions led by trained facilitators.
“We hypothesized that parents who participated in Parenting Journey would report less parenting stress,” Kistin told us, “and would demonstrate improvement in measures of parenting strengths compared to similar parents who did not participate in the program.”
Researchers conducted a quasi-experimental study with 244 parents: 123 parents in the intervention group participated in Parenting Journey, 121 parents who were eligible for Parenting Journey but did not enrol were included in the comparison group. The participants came from areas with mostly low-income, racially and ethnically diverse families including the Parenting Journey center in Massachusetts, and the Head Start and Early Head Start centers in Boston. Participants completed measures of parenting stress and other parent-reported outcomes at the time of enrolment in the study and again approximately 12 weeks later. Statistical tests were conducted to evaluate the differences between the two groups.
Parents who enrolled in Parenting Journey had a significantly greater decrease in reported parenting stress compared to parents in the comparison group. Parents in Parenting Journey were also significantly more likely to report improved insight into their own upbringing and its impact on their parenting and improved ability to utilize social networks. They were also more likely than control group participants to improve on four or more of the seven parent-reported outcomes that were measured. Ninety-one per cent of the program’s components were completed by participants of the study.
“We were interested to see the high attendance rates of families enrolled in Parenting Journey, especially since previous research has shown that low-income participants are less likely to complete parenting programs,”Kistin told us. “We believe there was high engagement in part because Parenting Journey sessions were delivered in the community, many at Head Start schools that already have developed trusting relationships with families.”
The findings suggest Parenting Journey is a promising approach for improving outcomes for parents and families. Future work will examine long-term effects of Parenting Journey on parent and child outcomes.
Patricia Tomasi is a mom, maternal mental health advocate, journalist, and speaker. She writes regularly for the Huffington Post Canada, focusing primarily on maternal mental health after suffering from severe postpartum anxiety twice. You can find her Huffington Post biography here. Patricia is also a Patient Expert Advisor for the North American-based, Maternal Mental Health Research Collective and is the founder of the online peer support group - Facebook Postpartum Depression & Anxiety Support Group - with over 1500 members worldwide. Blog: www.patriciatomasiblog.wordpress.com