Parenting during COVID: Study reveals Triple P as effective online as in person

5 May 2021

At a time when mental health and family support services are stretched to the limit, a newly-published study that compared online and in-person delivery of the Triple P – Positive Parenting Program has found similar results at 12-month follow-up.

The large-scale randomized controlled trial, published this month in The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, was conducted in the United States with hundreds of families whose children met clinical criteria for significant disruptive behavior problems, which, if untreated, can spiral into more serious problems in adolescence.

Founder of the Triple P – Positive Parenting Program, co-author of the study and Director of UQ's Parenting and Family Support Centre at the School of Psychology, Professor Matt Sanders, said that these findings came at a time when mental health issues are exacerbated by COVID-19.

“There’s extra pressure on the mental health system and we don’t have the mental health workforce to help everyone who needs it,” Professor Sanders said.

“So it’s important for policy makers to offer parenting support as an early intervention to the whole population. That’s why we continue to develop and research online delivery methods – to make parenting support more accessible and affordable.

“Just as we do with diabetes or asthma, offering parents the specific skills and knowledge they need to help manage and treat children’s mental health conditions is a public health imperative; however, behavior problems are not as visible and there are still some outdated and incorrect attitudes to helping parents manage these issues.

“There’s no magic formula to work out which children will develop disruptive and challenging behaviour, and this is reflected in the make-up of study participants – a majority were well-educated, two-parent families.

“We already know that early-onset behavior problems occur right across the socio-economic spectrum – in fact, 84 per cent of children with these problems are from middle- or upper-income families, according to previous research – and that without treatment, they can continue and become more entrenched.”

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