Program

May 20, 2009

OVERVIEW

The New Beginnings program is a group therapy
intervention developed for custodial mothers of children ages 9-12 who have
recently experienced a divorce. In one variant of the program, parents attend
group and individual sessions with clinicians which focus on mother-child
relationships, dealing with the problems of divorce, and reducing interparental
conflict. A second variant added group sessions for children to the program for
mothers. An experimental evaluation of the New Beginnings program found that,
at six year follow-up, the mother-only treatment had no impacts overall, but had
impacts for children with mental health problems. The mother and child
treatment was effective in reducing the development of mental disorders and
disorders in general. Likewise, the program was also found to reduce the number
of children’s sexual partners.

DESCRIPTION OF PROGRAM

Target population:
children ages 9-12 whose parents have recently
experienced a divorce

The New Beginnings
program was designed to protect children against the negative stress and effects
of divorce. The program focuses on helping parents, specifically mothers, cope
with divorce. It also seeks to improve parent-child relationships through
behavior change. Parents attend 11 sessions led by trained clinicians, each of
which last approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes.

EVALUATION(S) OF PROGRAM

Wolchik, S. A., S. G. West, et al. (2000). “An Experimental Evaluation of
Theory-Based Mother and Mother-Child Programs for Children of Divorce.” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 68(5): 843-856.

Evaluated
Population: 
Of the mothers, 88% were Caucasian (N=211), 8% Hispanic (N=19),
2% African American (N=5), 1% Asian (N=2), and 1% Other (N=2). Mean age of the
mothers was 37.3 years. Forty-seven percent reported completing some college
courses. Median yearly income was in the range of $20,001-$25,000. Sixty-three
percent (N=151) of custody arrangements were sole maternal, 35% joint (N=84),
and 2% split (N=5). Mothers had been divorced an average of 12 months, and the
mean number of children was 2.2. The average age of the interviewed children was
10.4 years, and 49% of the children were female.

Approach:
The authors randomly assigned 240 families to one of three conditions: program
for custodial mothers (N=81); dual-component (mother and child) intervention
(N=83); or self-study, reading condition (N=76). The program for mothers left
out nonparental adult support to accommodate an expanded discipline section. The
custodial mother intervention addressed the following outcomes with a specific
intervention technique: mother-child relationship quality, effective discipline,
interparental conflict, father-child relationship, child’s active coping and
avoidant coping.

The authors
assessed mother-child relationship quality, discipline, interparental conflict,
father-child relationship, appraisals of divorce stressors, coping,
externalizing behavior problems, and internalizing behavior problems.
Mother-child relationship quality was measured by using the acceptance and
rejection subscales (about 10 items) from an adaptation of the Child Report of
Parenting Behavior Inventory (CRPBI) and the 10-item Open Family Communication
Subscale of the Parent-Adolescent Communication Scale. Recordings and codings of
a 15-minute, mother-child interaction were made. For discipline, mothers
answered items on inappropriate discipline, appropriate discipline, and
follow-through. Both mothers and children answered an inconsistent discipline
subscale from the adaptation of the CRPBI. Mothers and children also completed a
subscale of the Children’s Perception of Interparental Conflict Scale to measure
interparental conflict. To measure father-child relationship, mothers answered
six items that assessed father support of the father-child relationship. Divorce
Stressors were measured using the Threat Appraisal Scale, completed by the
child. Children answered 36 items on coping from the Children’s Coping
Strategies Checklist-Revised and a Coping Efficacy Scale.

For externalizing
problems, mothers answered the 33-item, externalizing subscale of the Child
Behavior Checklist (CBCL). Children completed the aggression and delinquency
subscales of the Youth Self Report. Teachers also completed an assessment; they
answered the acting-out subscale of the Teacher-Child Rating Scale. For
internalizing behaviors, mothers completed the 31-item internalizing subscale of
the CBCL. Children completed the Children’s Depression Inventory and the
Children’s Manifest Anxiety Scale-Revised. Teachers completed the shy-anxious
subscale of the Teacher-Child Rating Scale.

Results: The
mother condition was significantly different from the self-study condition on
the mother-child relationship quality, effective discipline strategies,
validation of content (weekly quiz about the content of the intervention for the
group leaders), and attending (number of sessions attended). Mother-child
relationship quality improved in the mother condition when pretest scores for
mother-child relationship were less than 0.17. The mother condition helped to
foster more effective discipline strategies compared with the self-study
condition, and had higher means than the self-study condition for content and
attending. For coping, children with pretest scores of greater than 7.44
reported more support coping in the self-study condition than the mother
condition.

The mother
condition was significantly different from the dual-component (mother and child)
condition on active coping strategies (open-ended answers), avoidant coping
strategies (open-ended answers), support coping strategies (open-ended answers),
and attending. Children in the dual-component condition reported more active
coping, less avoidant coping, and greater support coping compared with children
in the mother condition. However, results showed that at pretest scores greater
than 4.21, children in the dual-component condition reported more distraction
coping.

Wolchick, S. A.,
Sandler, I. N., Millsap, R. E., Plummer, B. A., Greene, S. M., Anderson, E. R.,
Dawson-McClure, S. R., Hipke, K., & Haine, R. A. (2002). Six-year follow-up of
preventative interventions for children of divorce. The Journal of the
American Medical Association, 288
(15), 1874-1881.

Evaluated population:
Participants were families of children between
the ages of 9 and 12 who had recently experienced divorce. 240 families
participated in the program and at the six year follow-up 218 of these families
were recontacted and interviewed. 108 of children at follow-up were female and
the children had a mean age of 17 years. 80% of children still lived with their
mothers, 11% lived with their fathers, and 9% lived independently. The racial
breakdown of residential parents was 82-89% white, 6-18% Hispanic, 0-1% black,
and 0-1% Asian. The mean income of households in the study was between $50,760
and $79,264 depending on the sex of the residential parent at the time of
follow-up.

Approach: To
be included in the study, each family had to fulfill the following criteria:
residential parent was female, neither mother nor any child was being treated
for mental health problems, the mother had not remarried and did not have a
live-in boyfriend, custody was predicted to remain stable, family resided within
1 hour drive of program site, mother and child spoke English, child was not
mentally handicapped or learning disabled, children with ADHD were taking
medication, children had to score lower than 17 on the Children’s Depression
Inventory (CDI), children could not have any suicidal ideation, and children had
to score lower than the 97th percentile on the Externalizing Subscale
of the Child Behavior Checklist (CBC).

After parents and
children took a pretest and attended an orientation session, they were randomly
assigned to one of three conditions: mother program, mother and child program,
and a control. The mother program (MP) consisted of 11 group sessions lasting
1.75 hours each and focused on improving mother-child relationships, effective
discipline, increasing father’s access to the child, and reducing interparental
conflict. The mother and child program (MPCP) also consisted of 11 group
sessions lasting 1.75 hours each and focused on improving effective coping,
reducing negative thoughts about divorce, and improving mother-child
relationships. Children participated in 11 group sessions. Parents in the
control condition received books on adjusting to divorce and a prepared schedule
to guide in reading of the materials.

At the 6-year
follow-up, children were assessed by parent and self-report on measures of
mental disorder, drug abuse and dependence, externalizing problems,
internalizing problems, alcohol and drug abuse, and number of sexual partners.

Results:
Outcomes were better for both treatment groups, compared with the control group,
though they were not all statistically significant. At the 6-year follow-up,
adolescents in the MPCP program were less likely to be diagnosed with any
disorder (15.1%) and also less likely to be diagnosed with a mental disorder
(11.0% than adolescents in the control group (23.5% any disorder, 23.5% mental
disorder). Adolescents in the MPCP group also had fewer sexual partners (0.68)
compared with those in the control group (1.65). There was no difference found
between the MPCP group and the control group with respect to drug abuse or
dependency. The MP group overall did not differ from the control group on any
measures; however, children in the MP group with mental health problems at
baseline had less substance abuse and externalizing behavior, and fewer symptoms
of mental disorder. 

SOURCES FOR MORE INFORMATION

References

Wolchik, S. A., S. G. West, et al. (2000). “An Experimental Evaluation of
Theory-Based Mother and Mother-Child Programs for Children of Divorce.” Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 68(5): 843-856.

Wolchick, S. A.,
Sandler, I. N., Millsap, R. E., Plummer, B. A., Greene, S. M., Anderson, E. R.,
Dawson-McClure, S. R., Hipke, K., & Haine, R. A. (2002). Six-year follow-up of
preventative interventions for children of divorce. The Journal of the
American Medical Association, 288
(15), 1874-1881.

Website:
http://www.newbegin.org/

KEYWORDS:

Counseling/Therapy, Parent-Child Interaction, Mental Health, Social/Emotional
Health and Development, Stress, Middle Childhood (6-11), Children, Adolescence
(12-17), Adolescent, White or Caucasian, Hispanic or Latino, Black or African
American, Asian, Substance Abuse, Externalizing Problems, Internalizing
Problems, Alcohol Use, Illicit Drug Use, Reproductive Health, Parent or Family
Component, Physical Health, Behavioral Problems, Divorce.

Program
information last updated 5/20/09

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