The effectiveness of parenting programmes facilitated by health visitors


Ann Long, Room 12J11, School of Health Sciences, University of Ulster at Jordanstown, Shore Road, Newtownabbey, County Antrim BT37 0QB, UK. E-mail:


The effectiveness of parenting programmes facilitated by health visitors

Aim of the study. This study was designed to evaluate the effectiveness of parenting programmes that are facilitated by health visitors and offer practical and emotional support to parents in the Down Lisburn Trust, Northern Ireland.

Methods. All parents (n=78) taking part were given a self-administered questionnaire both before and after attending a ‘Positive Parenting’ programme. The questionnaire contained items gathering demographic information, standardized measures of clinical anxiety/depression, personality states and coping styles and participants’ experience of being a parent and what they wanted from the parenting group. Two items adapted from the Parent Stress Index looked at participants’ ratings of themselves as parents, and if they enjoyed this role.

Statistical analysis. All statistics were computed using the SPSS for Windows (version 7) statistical package. The parametric paired-samples t-test was used with the ratio data generated by the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS) questionnaire. It is used to test the difference between the means of the pre and postsets of scores for significance. The nonparametric Wilcoxon test was used to find if there was a significant difference between the pre and postprogramme related samples by ranking the means. The Wilcoxon was chosen firstly because the data were ordinal in nature, hence it cannot be assumed that the findings follow the normal curve of distribution and secondly because it cannot be assumed that the data have homogeneity of variance.

Findings. At the end of the 8-week parenting programme, findings demonstrated significant statistically reduced levels of clinical anxiety and depression. Parents demonstrated an increase in more positive ratings of personality states such as not shouting at their children and being more calm and energetic at the end of the programme. Adaptive problem focused coping strategies were reported as being used more often subsequent to the programme, although some of the less adaptive emotion focused strategies had also increased in use. However, no change was evident in their ratings of how good a parent they were or if they enjoyed being a parent.

Conclusions. Health visitors have the skills and are in the position to be preventative agents of inadequate parenting, and advocates of positive parenting. Factors relevant to the realm of positive parenting are highlighted as possible avenues for future research.