Program

May 22, 2015

OVERVIEW

Family Foundations is a parenting program for first-time adult expectant couples who are married and living together, or cohabiting (living together, but not married), and is delivered through childbirth education departments at local hospitals. The program is intended to improve parental adjustment (stress, efficacy, and depression), co-parenting and couple relationship quality, parenting, and child behavior problems.  An experimental study found that at the end of the program, when the infants were about six months old, there were statistically significant positive impacts on co-parental support, as reported by both of a child’s parents, mothers’ reports of depressive symptoms and anxiety, and fathers’ reports of parenting-based closeness, parent-child dysfunctional interaction, and infant soothability.

A follow-up evaluation when the infants were about one year old, found statistically significant positive impacts on co-parental competition and triangulation (using the child as a pawn in partner conflict) for both mothers and fathers, and inclusion for mothers. Parents receiving the program showed significantly more warmth to their partners and, by mothers’ reports, less negative communication than did parents in the control group.  They also demonstrated significantly higher levels of positive parenting, and fathers demonstrated lower parental negativity than those in the control group.  Children of parents receiving the program were found to have significantly higher levels of self-soothing compared to children of parents in the control group.

When the children were three years old, a follow-up evaluation found that the program had statistically significant positive impacts on parental stress and self-efficacy, co-parenting, harsh parenting, and children’s social competence among all families, and maternal depression among cohabiting couples.  Among families with male children, statistically significant positive impacts were found for child behavior problems (total, externalizing, internalizing, attention/hyperactivity, and aggression) and couple relationship quality.

DESCRIPTION OF PROGRAM

Target population:  Adult married and cohabiting couples expecting their first child

Family Foundations is a universal prevention program consisting of eight interactive, psycho-educational, skills-based classes, designed for first-time expectant adult couples who are cohabiting or married and living together. The focus of the program is on emotional self-management, conflict management, problem solving, communication, and mutual support strategies that foster positive joint parenting of an infant.  The aim is enhance the ways in which parents coordinate their parenting, support each other, and manage conflict regarding childrearing by helping couples become aware of areas of co-parental disagreement before parenthood, and to manage disagreements through productive communication, problem solving, and conflict management techniques.

Family Foundations is delivered through childbirth education departments at local hospitals and consists of four prenatal and four postnatal sessions.  The program includes limited material on parenting an infant, such as promoting parent-child bonding, infant sleep, and nutrition.  Couples in both the treatment and control groups participated in standard childbirth education classes.

 EVALUATIONS OF PROGRAM

 Study 1

 Feinberg, M.E., & Kan, M.L. (2008).  Establishing Family Foundations: Intervention effects on coparenting, parent/infant well-being, and parent-child relations.  Journal of Family Psychology, 22(2), 253-263.

Evaluated Population: The study sample consisted of 169 heterosexual, adult couples from rural areas, towns, and small cities in Pennsylvania, who were expecting their first child.  To be eligible for the study, first-time parents had to be at least 18 years of age, living together (regardless of marital status) and expecting a first child.  At the start of the study, 82 percent of couples were married; 91 percent of mothers and 90 percent of fathers were white.  Median annual family income was $65,000.  Average educational attainment was 15.06 years for mothers and 14.51 years for fathers; 86 percent of mothers and 71 percent of fathers had received at least some post-secondary education.  The expectant mothers and fathers had an average age of 28.3 and 29.8 years.

Approach: Participating couples were randomly assigned to intervention (n=89) and control (n=80) conditions after baseline data collection.  The control group couples received a brief brochure in the mail about selecting quality childcare.  The intervention and control groups demonstrated no significant differences on a range of background and study variables.

Data were collected when the participating couples had completed the postnatal classes and their children were about six months old.  Data were collected in the areas of parental adjustment (parent efficacy, parental stress, and parental depression), co-parenting and couple relationship(co-parenting and relationship quality, and couple relationship quality), parenting (permissive parenting, authoritarian parenting, and physical punishment), and child outcomes (total problems, externalizing problems, and internalizing problems, aggression and attention-hyperactivity, social competence, and emotional competence).  Measures of parenting and child outcomes were not collected at this time.

Results:  At the end of the program, the study found statistically significant positive impacts on co-parental support, as reported by both of a child’s parents (ES=0.35 for mothers and ES=054 for fathers), on mothers’ reports of depressive symptoms (ES=0.56) and anxiety (ES=0.38), and on fathers’ reports of parenting-based closeness (ES=0.44), parent-child dysfunctional interaction (ES=0.70), and infant soothability (ES=0.35).  No impacts were found for coparental undermining or parent-based closeness.

Study 2

Feinberg, M.E., Kan, M.L., & Goslin, M.C. (2009). Enhancing coparenting, parenting, and child self-regulation: effects of Family Foundations 1 year after birth. Prevention Science, 10, 276-285.

Evaluated Population:  The study sample was the same as that in the initial study, i.e., 169 heterosexual, adult couples from rural areas, towns, and small cities in Pennsylvania.

Approach:  Participating couples were randomly assigned to intervention (n=89) and control (n=80) conditions. Data for this follow-up study were collected when the children of the participating couples were about 12 months old.  Measures of child outcomes were not collected at this time.

Results:  At the six-month follow-up, when the babies were around one year old, an evaluation found statistically significant positive impacts on co-parental competition (ES=051 for mothers and ES=0.36 for fathers), triangulation (using the child as a pawn in partner conflict) (ES=0.33 for mothers and ES=0.28 for fathers), and inclusion (ES=45 for mothers only).  Parents receiving the program showed significantly more warmth to the partner (ES=0.89 for mothers and ES=1.01 for fathers)) and, by female partners’ reports, less negative communication (ES=0.48) than did parents in the control group.  The parents also demonstrated significantly higher levels of positive parenting (ES=0.43 for mothers and ES=0.45 for fathers) and fathers reported lower parental negativity (ES=0.60) compared to those in the control group.  Children receiving the program were found to have significantly higher levels of self-soothing (ES=0.46) compared to children in the control group.

 Study 3

 Feinberg, M.E., Jones, D.E., Kan, M.L., & Goslin, M.C. (2010). Effects of Family Foundations on parents and children: 3.5 years after baseline. Journal of Family Psychology, 24(5), 532–542.

Evaluated Population:  Thestudy sample was the same as that in the initial study and in the six-month follow-up study, i.e., 169 heterosexual, adult couples from rural areas, towns, and small cities in Pennsylvania.

Approach:  Participating couples were randomly assigned to intervention (n=89) and control (n=80) conditions. Data for this follow-up study were collected when the children of the participating couples were about 36 months old.  In addition to the measures collected for the earlier studies, measures of parenting and child outcomes were collected at this time.

Results:  When the children were about three years old, an evaluation found thatparents receiving the program reported statistically significant positive lower rates of parental stress (ES=0.16) and higher parental efficacy (ES=0.18) compared to parents in the control group.  There were statistically significant higher levels of depression for control group non-married mothers compared to intervention group non-married mothers (ES=0.72).  A statistically significant positive impact was found on the overall measure of co-parenting quality (ES=0.18).  The study found a significant interaction between intervention status and child gender (ES=0.43) for relationship satisfaction; for parents of boys, families receiving the program reported higher relationship quality than control families.  Parents receiving the program reported statistically significant lower levels of over-reactivity (ES=0.35), laxness (ES=0.30), and likelihood of inflicting physical punishment (ES=0.36) compared to parents in the control group.  The child total problems measure was statistically significant (ES=0.81) for boys, but not girls, as were the externalizing (ES=0.78) and aggression measures (ES=0.62).  Again for boys, internalizing (ES=0.70) and attention/hyperactivity (ES=0.62) were both statistically significant.  The evaluation found a statistically significant impact (ES=0.43) on child social competence for both boys and girls.

SOURCES FOR MORE INFORMATION

 References

Feinberg, M.E., & Kan, M.L. (2008).  Establishing Family Foundations: Intervention effects on coparenting, parent/infant well-being, and parent-child relations.  Journal of Family Psychology, 22(2), 253-263.

Feinberg, M.E., Kan, M.L., & Goslin, M.C. (2009). Enhancing coparenting, parenting, and child self-regulation: effects of Family Foundations 1 year after birth. Prevention Science, 10, 276-285.

Feinberg, M.E., Jones, D.E., Kan, M.L., & Goslin, M.C. (2010). Effects of Family Foundations on parents and children: 3.5 years after baseline. Journal of Family Psychology, 24(5), 532–542.

KEYWORDS: Infants (0-12 mos), Toddlers (12-36 mos), Males and Females (co-ed), Urban, Clinic/Provider-Based, Parent Training/Education, Child Care, Anxiety Disorders/Symptoms, Conduct/Disruptive Disorders, Depression/Mood Disorders, Parent-Child Relationship, Aggression

Program information last updated on 5/22/2015.

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