Full project title: Web-based Parenting Intervention for Mothers of Infants At-Risk for Maltreatment

Project timeline: 09/28/10 – 07/31/14

Funded by NICHD grant #1-RO1-HD064870, this research adapts a video-based home visiting education program for parents of infants to improve parent-child interactions and parenting skills. Using a randomized experimental design, we evaluate the efficacy of the interactive Internet parent training intervention as compared to control.


Parents of infants living in poverty are at significantly elevated risk of a host of detrimental outcomes, including the development of child behavior problems, neglect and abuse of children, child learning problems and parental substance abuse. Research has found that early interventions to improve parenting practices were effective to ameliorate these outcomes. Yet, there exist major obstacles to the effective delivery of mental health services, particularly in rural areas. The need of rural families for mental health services is reaching crisis proportions due to the dearth of trained professionals. In addition, the meteoric rise of Internet use has created a new avenue for people to communicate and share ideas. These two trends are helping fuel the demand for mental health services and on-line support.

Internet programs can be interactive and provide social support from peers and professionals. Through the use of recent advances in multimedia technology and software as well as the rise of computer networking via the Internet, there now exists an opportunity to provide such monitoring of outcomes and remote contact for rural locations. Prior developmental R34 research (“Infant Net”) successfully adapted and pilot tested an existing empirically proven parenting program, for delivery via the Internet, enhanced with weekly professional contact. This research provided 40 mothers of infants 3.5 to 7 months (at enrollment) with a computer, computer camera, Internet connection, and technical training/support for 6 months to evaluate the digital translation. Mother-infant dyads were randomized to Experimental or Computer/Control conditions. Results found significant change with infant-behavioral and positive trends were demonstrated in parenting behaviors. Mothers rated the both computer program and interaction with coaches to be very high. These encouraging developmental research results provide a very good empirical base for a fully powered randomized control trial to test effectiveness.

In its developmental current form, Infant Net successfully delivered the PALS program to mothers in English. In the current study, we seek to broaden our scope to include monolingual Spanish-speaking Latino families. Using the existing Spanish-language translation of the PALS program as a foundation, we will develop a culturally and linguistically appropriate Infant Net-Spanish intervention delivery tool.

This project will evaluate the impact of the interactive Internet parent training intervention as compared to control. After recruiting from Early Head Start program in rural and urban Oregon and Kansas, 200 English- and Spanish-speaking mothers (in 4 cohorts) will be randomized to either the intervention or computer-control conditions. Parent coaches will make weekly, phone calls and email to assist parents with the use of the computer and questions/concerns about the program. Parenting practices will serve as the primary outcome. The randomized control trial design will test the effectiveness of an Internet parenting intervention in effecting parenting behavior.