Full project title: First-Time Parent Interactive Parenting Intervention
Project timeline: 03/10/06 – 01/31/08
This study, funded by NIMH grant R34 MH073756, adapted the PALS Infant curriculum for Internet-based use with online interactive coaching and support from a trained PALS facilitator. This project, carried out by the Oregon Research Institute and Juniper Gardens Children’s Project at the University of Kansas, was specifically designed to address the needs of rural families who are not able to access mental health services and parent training programs offered in a traditional on-site format. After recruiting from Early Head Start programs in rural Oregon and Kansas, 40 families were randomized to either the intervention or computer control condition. As with other applications of the PALS program, this study aimed to promote the social-emotional development and communication skills of infants to decrease the chances of psychopathology and increase school-readiness of children from low-income families.
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.
"InfantNet" adapted and pilot tested an existing empirically proven parenting program, for delivery via the Internet, enhanced with weekly professional contact. This exploratory research project provided parents of infants 3.5 to 7 months (at enrollment) with a computer, "eyeball" computer camera, Internet connection, and technical training/support for 6 months to evaluate the digital translation. This system enabled Parent Coaches to make treatment decisions with objective data, as well as provide outcomes assessment from remote research sites.
Using an experimental design we will evaluate the impact of the interactive Internet parent training intervention as compared to usual-care (control). After recruiting from Early Head Start program in rural Oregon and Kansas, 40 families 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 proposed design will provide important practical information about the feasibility and effectiveness of an Internet parenting intervention in effecting parenting behavior.
This innovative interactive Internet-based parent education intervention helped serve to promote the social-emotional development and communication skills of infants to decrease the chances of psychopathology and increase school readiness of children from low-income families.