Parenting support for families with young children – a public health, user-focused study undertaken in a semi-rural area of Scotland


Correspondence: Rhona Hogg, Edinburgh Napier University, 74 Canaan Lane, Edinburgh EH9 2 TB, UK. Telephone: +44 (0) 13145532055.



Aims and objectives

To work with parents and public health nurses (health visitors), to identify and design a range of public health interventions to provide support to parents of young children.


In the UK, only vulnerable families are now eligible for pro-active health visiting interventions on an individual family basis beyond the early days. Public health approaches are recommended for the majority of families who are not eligible for one-to-one professional support.


Focus groups were carried out with parents of young children, health visitors and other professionals working with them.


The study was carried out in a semi-rural area of Scotland, consisting of a small town, and the surrounding rural area, including one area of deprivation. The area is served by a team consisting of six health visitors and one health assistant, based in two health centres in the area. Nineteen parents, five members of the health visiting team and 11 other professionals from health, education and social work took part via an invitation to contact the research team.


The needs of parents identified by both parents and professionals could best be met by social support, with skilled facilitation and suitable resources. The resolution of tensions between caseload-based and population-based health visiting, as well as the management of the tensions inherent in these changes, seems to be vital in order to implement these approaches. Many parents would like information made available online.


Services to support families with young children need to be designed from the perspectives of parents and their needs.

Relevance to clinical practice

Services need to be set up in partnership with parents to provide them with information and access to peer and professional support, using public health approaches. Multiagency working, including among senior managers, may be the most effective way of providing this support.