Impact of a brief group intervention to enhance parenting and the home learning environment for children aged 6–36 Months: a cluster randomised controlled trial
This study evaluated the effectiveness of a group parenting intervention designed to strengthen the home learning environment of children from disadvantaged families. Two cluster randomised controlled superiority trials were conducted in parallel and delivered within existing services: a 6-week parenting group (51 locations randomised; 986 parents) for parents of infants (aged 6–12 months), and a 10-week facilitated playgroup (58 locations randomised; 1200 parents) for parents of toddlers (aged 12–36 months). Each trial had three conditions: intervention (smalltalk group-only); enhanced intervention with home coaching (smalltalk plus); and ‘standard’/usual practice controls. Parent-report and observational measures were collected at baseline, 12 and 32 weeks follow-up. Primary outcomes were parent verbal responsivity and home learning activities at 32 weeks. In the infant trial, there were no differences by trial arm for the primary outcomes at 32 weeks. In the toddler trial at 32-weeks, participants in the smalltalk group-only trial showed improvement compared to the standard program for parent verbal responsivity (effect size (ES) = 0.16; 95% CI 0.01, 0.36) and home learning activities (ES = 0.17; 95% CI 0.01, 0.38) but smalltalk plus did not. For the secondary outcomes in the infant trial, several initial differences favouring smalltalk plus were evident at 12 weeks, but not maintained to 32 weeks. For the toddler trial, differences in secondary outcomes favouring smalltalk plus were evident at 12 weeks and maintained to 32 weeks. These trials provide some evidence of the benefits of a parenting intervention focused on the home learning environment for parents of toddlers but not infants.