Program

Jul 19, 2007

OVERVIEW

The UCLA Family Development Project is a relationship-based
home visiting program for pregnant mothers who are at risk for inadequate
parenting. This intervention is designed to start in the third trimester
and continue until the infant is 24 months old. In an experimental
evaluation of the program, researchers found that the Family Development
Project was effective in increasing the mothers’ responsiveness to their
child’s needs as well as the mothers’ encouragement of infant autonomy and task
involvement. Children in the program were also more secure, autonomous,
task involved compared with those who did not receive the intervention.

DESCRIPTION OF
PROGRAM

Target population: Pregnant
or new mothers who are in poverty and lack social support

This home visiting program was created based on previous
literature and evaluations of other home visiting programs attempted in past
studies. Based on those findings, the UCLA researchers created the Family
Development Project with 5 goals: 1) Decrease maternal depression and anxiety;
2) Increase partner and family support; 3) Increase responsiveness of the new
mothers and increase infant security in attachment to their mothers; 4)
Encourage child autonomy; and 5) Encourage child task involvement. To
realize these goals, a social worker begins visiting the mother’s home weekly
during the third trimester of her pregnancy. During these visits, the
worker’s goal is to establish trust and give social support to the expecting
mother. Then, the visits focus on giving positive reinforcement to the
mother to increase her sense of competence. Finally, the mother receives
specific interventions designed to increase her knowledge in parenting, family
systems, and infant health. The mother also receives referrals to other
health programs and additional contacts for support as needed.

EVALUATION(S) OF PROGRAM

Heinicke, C. M., Fineman, N. R., Ruth, G., Recchia, S.
L., Guthrie, D., & Rodning, C. (1999). Relationship-based
intervention with at-risk mothers: Outcome in the first year of life. Infant
Mental Health Journal, 20
(4), 349-374.

Heinicke, C. M., Goorsky, M., Moscov, S., Dudley, K.,
Gordon, J., Schneider, C., & Guthrie, D. (2000). Relationship-based
intervention with at-risk mothers: Factors affecting variations in
outcome. Infant Mental Health Journal, 21(3), 133-155.

Evaluated
population: 64 first time mothers who were receiving prenatal care at
the UCLA OB/GYN and Pediatric Continuity Care Clinics. All mothers in the
study were poor, lacked social support, had histories of abuse, and potential
to return to drug abuse. The average age of the mother was 24 years and mothers
had, on average, a high school education. 19% of the sample was
African-American, 36% was Caucasian, 42% was Latina, and 3% was Asian-American.

Approach: To qualify, mothers could not have serious
health complications in their family, have a DSM-IV Axis I diagnosis, or be
currently using drugs. Additionally, mothers had to speak English, live
within 20 minutes of the hospital, be at least 17 years of age, and fit the
description for “at-risk”. At-risk status was determined by the mother’s
current social/economic status, current mental health, and the presence of
traumatic events in her past. Poverty and lack of support were the
primary risks. The qualifying mothers were then randomly assigned to
either a “home visiting” condition which received the Family Development
Project intervention and a “pediatric follow-up” condition which received
normal health checkups from the UCLA clinic. Parents receiving the
intervention were visited by a social worker once per week starting in the
third week of her pregnancy. After birth, the worker continued to visit
the mother’s home each week until the child was 1 year old. At this time,
visits became biweekly for the next year until the termination of the program
at the child’s second birthday.

Mothers and children who participated in the evaluation were
monitored during home observations when the child was 1, 6, and 12 months
old. At the baseline assessment before the birth of the child, the mother
was given an intelligence scale and the Maternal Support Interview. At 6
and 12 months after birth, children were assessed using the Bayley Scales of
Infant Development. At 14 months, the child was also given the Ainsworth
Strange Situation procedure in a test laboratory.

Results: Mothers in the intervention group were found
to be more responsive to the needs of their infants than those in the control
group when the baby was 12 months old. Likewise, mothers in the
intervention also encouraged their infant’s autonomy and task involvement and
used restriction and punishment less. Children in the intervention group
were described more secure, autonomous, and task-involved than children in the
control group. Mothers in the intervention group were just as likely to
have depressive and anxiety related symptoms compared with the control group,
but they experienced more partner and family support. Children in the
intervention did not differ from the control group children on measures of
cognitive functioning.

SOURCES FOR MORE
INFORMATION

References:

Heinicke, C. M., Fineman, N. R., Ruth, G., Recchia, S. L.,
Guthrie, D., & Rodning, C. (1999). Relationship-based intervention
with at-risk mothers: Outcome in the first year of life. Infant Mental
Health Journal, 20
(4), 349-374.

Heinicke, C. M., Goorsky, M., Moscov, S., Dudley, K.,
Gordon, J., Schneider, C., & Guthrie, D. (2000). Relationship-based
intervention with at-risk mothers: Factors affecting variations in
outcome. Infant Mental Health Journal, 21(3), 133-155.

Program categorized in this guide according to the
following:

Evaluated participant ages: First-time mothers, and
infant – 2 years / Program age ranges in the Guide: prenatal, early
childhood

Program components:
clinic-based, provider-based, or miscellaneous; home visiting; parent or family
component

Measured outcomes: education and cognitive development;
social and emotional health and development; mental health

Program information last updated 7/19/07.