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Encouraging Parenting Behaviors That Promote Early Childhood Development Among Caregivers From Low-Income Urban Communities: A Randomized Static Group Comparison Trial of a Primary Care-Based Parenting Program

Maternal and Child Health Journal
Reshma Shah, Ashley Isaia, Alan Schwartz, Marc Atkins


Objectives Encouraging key parenting behaviors in early infancy may help decrease income-related developmental disparities. In this study we assessed whether a brief, primary care-based program (Sit Down and Play; SDP) could be successful in impacting key parenting behaviors that promote early childhood development. Methods An ethnically diverse group of predominantly low-income caregivers of children 2–6 months of age were enrolled, interviewed, and randomized to intervention (n = 20) or control (n = 20) groups. Intervention families received SDP at recruitment and the subsequent well-child visit. Control families were provided handouts regarding developmental milestones. One month after the second well-child visit, all families were reinterviewed (n = 34; 85% retention rate). Using open-ended questions and standardized measures (i.e., StimQ), parents were asked about parenting behaviors central to children’s development: (1) participation in cognitively stimulating activities, (2) provision of learning materials, and (3) the quality of parent–child verbal interactions. Potential impact on perceived parenting confidence was also explored utilizing The Parenting Sense of Competence Scale. Analyses were conducted using chi square tests and analysis of variance. Results A significant main effect of time, and as hypothesized, an interaction between time and condition emerged that favored SDP on play behaviors (p = 0.03). Post-intervention, SDP families had significantly higher levels of interactional activities between a parent and child that promote cognitive development (p = 0.02). Conclusions for Practice Results appear promising for an accessible, low-intensity program delivered in the primary care setting. Further studies to determine the effectiveness of SDP on parenting behaviors and subsequent developmental outcomes are warranted.

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