Parenting for mental health: what does the evidence say we need to do? Report of Workpackage 2 of the DataPrev project

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Abstract

The last decade has witnessed increasing interest in the promotion of mental health and well-being because of its importance for health and social functioning at individual level and for the social and economic well-being of societies. Recent research from a range of disciplines (including neurodevelopment, developmental psychology and genetics) has highlighted the importance of childhood, and particularly the first few years of life, for future mental, social and emotional development. The quality of the parent–child relationship and parenting more generally is one of the factors in determining outcomes. The objective of this review was to identify effective interventions to support parents, parenting and the parent–child relationship from the ante-natal period to adolescence. A systematic search of key electronic databases was undertaken to identify systematic reviews evaluating approaches to parenting support; 52 systematic reviews were identified. Results were synthesized qualitatively and reported under the following headings: (i) perinatal programmes; (ii) parenting support programmes in infancy and early years focused on enhancing caregiver sensitivity and attunement; (iii) formal parenting programmes focused on children's behaviour; (iv) parenting support for highest risk groups. The review provides a robust international evidence base of programmes which have been demonstrated to improve parenting and the mental health and well-being of children. Policies and programmes to support parenting offer much scope for improving mental health. Effective provision requires a skilled workforce and careful application of approaches that have been found to work. More research is needed to develop and identify interventions for some of the highest risk groups.

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