Matthew R. Sanders1, Alan Ralph1, Rachel Thompson1, Kate Sofronoff1, Paul Gardiner1, Kerry Bidwell2, Sarah Dwyer2
1 Queensland Divisions of General Practice
2 Parenting and Family Support Centre, University of Queensland
Project completion year
A substantial body of evidence shows that the quality of parenting children receive has a major effect on their development. Family risk factors such as poor parenting, family conflict and marriage breakdown strongly influence children’s risk of developing mental health problems. Specifically, a lack of a warm positive relationship with parents; insecure attachment; harsh, inflexible or inconsistent discipline practices; inadequate supervision of and involvement with children; marital conflict and breakdown; and parental psychopathology (particularly maternal depression) increase the risk that children will develop major behavioural and emotional problems, including depression and conduct problems. (Sanders et al., 1999)
Every Family represents the largest population health trial of a parenting intervention focusing on the prevention of serious behavioural and emotional problems in children in Australia. The intervention focused on providing intensive parenting support services based on the Triple P-Positive Parenting Program through the media, community child health services, general practices, schools and preschools, Parentline telephone counselling, and the Every Family website.
The evaluation examined the impact of the intervention on parents and children through a household survey conducted with 3,000 parents of 4 to 7 year olds drawn from 20 socio-demographically matched comparison suburbs in Brisbane (10), Sydney (5) and Melbourne (5). Parents in Southern Brisbane suburbs received the Triple P system of interventions and parents in Sydney and Melbourne served as a Care as Usual comparison group
The evaluation found strong evidence to support the efficacy of the Triple P system as a public health intervention. Specifically in Triple P communities compared to comparison communities:
- there was a reduction in childhood emotional and behavioural problems
- family risk factors that contribute to childhood depression and other mental health problems were reduced
- emotional distress in parents, including depression and stress, was reduced
- parenting practices were improved by reducing the use of coercive parenting methods.
Implications for policy and practice
The Every Family Initiative showed that a large scale population level parenting intervention was feasible and, moreover, Triple P can effect change in a range of important family risk and protective factors related to the development of children’s mental health problems including depression. These changes are directly relevant to a number of Commonwealth policy initiatives relating to the health and well being of children and young people including the National Mental Health Strategy and the National Suicide Prevention Strategy.
The Australian General Practice Network, Lifeline Australia and the Parenting and Family Support Centre at the University of Queensland are in the process of seeking Federal Government funding for the national roll-out of Every Family in every Australian community.
Sanders (1999). Triple P-Positive Parenting Program: Towards an empirically validated multilevel parenting and family support strategy for the prevention of behaviour and emotional problems in children. Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review, 2, 71-90.
Sanders. et al. (2007) Every Family: A public health approach to promoting children’s wellbeing – Final Report. The University of Queensland: Brisbane, Australia. (Online version)