Abstract: Randomized Controlled Trial Testing Brief Parenting Education Programs Designed to Promote Positive Parenting (Society for Social Work and Research 26th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Racial, Social, and Political Justice)

Randomized Controlled Trial Testing Brief Parenting Education Programs Designed to Promote Positive Parenting

Friday, January 14, 2022
Congress, ML 4 (Marriott Marquis Washington, DC)
* noted as presenting author
Catherine A. Taylor, PhD, Professor, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA
Julia M. Fleckman, PhD, Assistant Professor, Tulane University, New Orleans, LA
Laura L. Whitaker, MPH, Program Manager, Tulane University, New Orleans, LA
Michelle Struthers, MPH, Program Manager, Tulane University, New Orleans, LA
Ronald J. Prinz, PhD, Professor, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC
Seth J. Scholer, MD, Professor, Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Nashville, TN
Matthew C. Gregas, PhD, Manager, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, MA
Background and Purpose: Hitting children for discipline, commonly referred to as spanking, physical punishment, or corporal punishment, is harmful to children, considered an adverse childhood experience on par with child abuse, and yet remains normative in the U.S. Despite this, parent education focused on teaching positive, non-harmful discipline strategies is not ubiquitous for parents. To address this gap, we tested the efficacy of two very brief parent education programs with the hopes of identifying programs that could readily be deployed universally in family service settings to promote positive parenting strategies.

Methods: Participants were recruited from 2014 to 2018 at Women, Infants and Children (WIC) service clinics in the metro New Orleans area. Those who were enrolled met the following eligibility criteria: female: English speaking; adult 18 years of age or older; primary caregiver of at least one child between ages 2 and 7; has a follow-up visit planned with WIC 3 months later; and available that day for 2 hours to complete baseline procedures. The mean age of our sample was 30 years and most were Black, Christian, had an income of less than $20,000, and had experienced frequent spanking as children; very few (only 9%) reported they had never been spanked. Our study was a Randomized Controlled Trial with three groups: Triple P-Level 2 (TP), Play Nicely (PN), or control. Of our final sample (n=823), 88% (n = 720) completed 3-months follow-up assessments. The main outcomes of interest were: use of positive discipline strategies (PDS), attitudes toward spanking (ATS), frequency of spanking, and child emotional and behavioral maladjustment. Other key variables assessed included participants’ experience of intimate partner violence, parenting stress, and mental health. Continuous outcomes were analyzed using linear mixed effect models, followed by a likelihood ratio test. Frequency of spanking, a categorical outcome, was analyzed using Generalized Estimating Equations.

Results: PDS scores increased for both program groups when compared to the control group (diff in change= 1.08, p<0.01, PN; diff in change= 1.28, p<0.001, TP). ATS scores decreased for the PN group compared to the control group (diff in change= -0.39, p<0.001) and compared to the TP group (diff in change= -0.22, p<0.05). More participants in PN and TP groups reported not using spanking compared to controls, but the difference was not statistically significant. We anticipate having additional results to share by the time of the conference.

Conclusions and Implications: Both Play Nicely and Triple P-Level 2 showed efficacy in increasing use of PDS, and Play Nicely in decreasing support for the use of spanking. Given that each program is also relatively low cost (PN is currently free) and brief (both can be completed in 30 minutes to an hour), they have the potential for implementation in family clinics or social service settings to provide low cost, selected or universal parenting education. Such implementation could lead to population level increases in the use of PDS and reduced support for the use of spanking.