KIPS Blog: Parenting Assessment in Practice & Research

Infant Mental Health Awareness - Conference UK June 2016

Posted by Marilee Comfort on Mon, Feb 22, 2016 @ 06:56 PM

Guest Blog by

Robin Balbernie, Clinical Director

Parent Infant Partnership UK

We are launching the UK's first Infant Mental Health Awareness Week 6-10 June which sees over 100 Royal Colleges and organisations signed up for a national calendar of events to impact upon local communities and increase life chances for babies and their relationships. As part of this week there will be a week-long exhibition in Parliament bringing artists and scientists together to showcase the evidence behind investing early into human potential. For the first time in the UK there will be Infant Mental Health Awards which seek to raise the profile and understanding of the importance of the first 1001 days of a child’s life: conception to age 2

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Tags: Parenting Assessment, parenting quality, home visiting, early intervention, infant mental health

Brookings: The Parenting Divide Limits Children’s Development

Posted by Marilee Comfort on Mon, Jun 30, 2014 @ 04:51 PM

The Brookings Institution has just released a policy recommendation, entitled Addressing the Parenting Divide to Promote Early Childhood Development for Disadvantaged Childrenwritten by Ariel Kalil, Professor, the Harris School for Public Policy at the University of Chicago.  In this and the next few posts we will explore this proposal. The Brookings proposal centers around addressing an issue Kalil refers to as the “Parenting Divide”, the disparities in time and quality of time parents spend with their children.  Kalil points to the growing inequalities in US family incomes, which are reflected in children’s educational achievement.  She argues that these inequalities are due in large part to the parenting divide.  She claims that focusing investments on classrooms alone is too narrow and is missing an important component.  We must include parents if children are to be successful.

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Tags: Parenting Assessment, parenting quality, education and parenting, parenting divide, poverty

Parenting Rather Than Breastfeeding Promotes School Readiness: New Research

Posted by Phil Gordon on Thu, Mar 13, 2014 @ 10:37 AM

I started my career doing nutrition research in the laboratory of Dr. Lucille Hurley, who was famous for her work on the impact of nutritional deficiencies on development.  While working with her I came to not only know the literature on how nutrient deficiencies can impair development, but saw the dramatic impact with my own eyes. Thus, the overwhelming literature showing that breastfeeding results in improved cognitive development came as no surprise.  Yet, I have to admit to being surprised again by the power of parenting. A recent report concludes that the well-documented impact of breastfeeding on cognitive development is actually a proxy for parenting.  

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Tags: Parenting Assessment, parenting practices, parent-child interaction, school readiness, parenting quality

New Research: Family Risk Factors Impair Parenting & Child Outcomes

Posted by Phil Gordon on Sat, Dec 14, 2013 @ 04:22 PM

A large longitudinal study conducted by a team at the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina shows that for rural low-income families, cumulative risk factors can negatively affect parenting quality and child development, learning and behavior. This study is important because nearly 20% of children in United States families are located in rural communities and rural families are understudied. The Family Life Project followed 1292 children from low-income rural families over a 10-year period, and the results have been published as a monograph (The Family Life Project: An Epidemiological and Developmental Study of Young Children Living in Poor Rural Communities (2013). Lynne Vernon-Feagans, Martha Cox, and The Family Life Project Key Investigators, Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, Volume 78, Issue 5, Pages vii–vii, 1–150.)

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Tags: parenting behavior, Parenting Assessment, parenting quality, poverty

Research: Parenting Buffers Brain’s Hippocampus from Poverty’s Impact

Posted by Phil Gordon on Thu, Oct 31, 2013 @ 11:28 AM

This week I want to highlight an exciting new study just published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Pediatrics by Joan Luby and coworkers entitled The Effects of Poverty on Childhood Brain Development: The Mediating Effect of Caregiving and Stressful Life Events.  The study was a prospective longitudinal study of 145 children, starting in preschool and following them into middle school. The children’s brains were scanned by magnetic resonance imaging to assess brain architecture when the children were 5 to 10 years old.  As other neuroimaging studies have shown, poverty predicted reduced volumes of cortical gray and white matter, amygdala and hippocampus.  What is new and intriguing about this study is that it examined the influence of three psychosocial factors, parental education, stressful life events, and caregiving (i.e. parenting).  Remarkably, the study showed that caregiving support/hostility mediated the reduction in both right and left hippocampus volume.  Stressful events mediated only left hippocampus volume.  Though parent education is highly touted as a mediator of children’s development, parent education alone was not shown to significantly mediate the reduced volume in any region of the brain.  Put simply, this study shows that parenting is so important to development of one part of the brain, the hippocampus, that differences can be seen structurally, using magnetic imaging.   

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Tags: Parenting Assessment, parent-child interaction, parenting quality

Finding the Right Parenting Assessment Tool for Family Services

Posted by Phil Gordon on Thu, Sep 05, 2013 @ 04:23 PM

If something is important, a professional will measure it.  A doctor uses a thermometer.  A carpenter uses a tape measure.  A chef uses a scale.  The importance of parenting cannot be overstated. "Young children experience their world as an environment of relationships, and these relationships affect virtually all aspects of their development – intellectual, social, emotional, physical, behavioral, and moral" (National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, 2004).There are tangible long-term benefits to effective parenting that are realized throughout childhood and into adulthood. In studies compiled by the US Office of Head Start Early Childhood Learning and Knowledge Center (ECLKC), supportive and involved parenting has been linked with success in school and college enrollment. Additionally, a study by the National Conference of State Legislatures found children with difficult home lives are less likely to thrive or succeed in school, and more likely to drop out and experience homelessness.  Adequate parental support is crucial to their future, and family service professionals are fighting an uphill battle to stop these at-risk youths from falling through the cracks of society. By the time many at-risk youths arrive at social service offices, it is often too late to make a meaningful impact on a life that could have been significantly improved through earlier intervention.  I think James Heckman a Nobel Prize Winner in economics summed it up best in his recent book, Giving Kids a Fair Chance (A Strategy that Works)

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Tags: Parenting Assessment, parenting evidence, parent-child interaction, assessing parenting, parenting quality

Parenting Assessment - Guide Parents to Promote Children’s Success

Posted by Phil Gordon on Fri, Aug 09, 2013 @ 04:00 PM

You often hear parents bemoaning the fact that children don't come with instructions.  Many people become parents without the skills needed to be effective parents in their children's lives.  It is important to support these parents in developing the skills and strategies they need to nurture their children.  As we have discussed in prior posts, research consistently shows that parenting quality is the strongest factor contributing to children’s success (for examples see theses prior posts 1, 2, 3, & 4).  In a recent post, we explored the role of parenting quality in language learning.  A longitudinal study showed that while many things impact a child’s learning of language, such as word counts, environment, income, education, and social status, none of these affected a child more than parenting quality.  Parenting quality can include feedback tone, responsiveness, symbolic emphasis, and guidance style.  Improving parenting increases the likelihood that children will succeed educationally, socially, and economically. 

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Tags: parenting feedback, Parenting Assessment, assessing parenting, parenting practices, parenting quality

Learning Language: Word # Matters, but Parenting Quality Matters More

Posted by Phil Gordon on Tue, Jul 23, 2013 @ 12:20 PM

Those of us who work in early childhood frequently hear reference to the “30 Million Word Gap.”  This phrase derives from a longitudinal study of 42 families by Hart and Risley from the University of Kansas on language acquisition and socioeconomic status (SES).  

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Tags: parenting practices, parent-child interaction, Parenting Assessment, assessing parenting, parenting quality