Welcome to the second A Better Start Southend research bulletin.

Here, we provide you with regular updates on the latest early years policy, practice and evidence, and inform you how we are using these latest findings to influence our work here in Southend.

If you would like to sign up to receive these updates or have a question please email abetterstart@southend.gov.uk.

Communications and language

Title: Examining the predictive relations between two aspects of self-regulation and growth in preschool children’s early literacy skills
Research source: Developmental Psychology
Publication date: January 2017
Authors: Lonigan, C.J. Allan, D.M and Phillips, B.M.

Our Summary:

There is strong, long-term evidence that children’s attention skills, their ability to ‘self-regulate’ (to manage their emotions and think before acting) and their executive functions (like inhibition) are linked to early academic skills. This study investigates the connection to early literacy and its authors argue that they are, in fact, uniquely associated with children’s language development.

How we’re applying the research in Southend:

  • Our ‘Area Wellbeing Profile, for children aged 0-8 years’ (Social Research Unit Dartington December 2013) shows us that in A Better Start Southend wards 3% more children have poor self-regulation than the rest of Southend-on-Sea.  Evidence shows that self-regulation is really important for children’s development, behaviour, future learning, independence and relationships, so we’ve made it a central part of our Let’s Talk speech and language project, and our test and learn parent support programmes.

Join the debate

  • What are the best strategies for dealing with temper tantrums?
  • How do you support the development of children’s attention skills and help them become independent learners?
  • What other skills help support children’s early literacy?

Let us know what you think by e-mailing abetterstart@southend.gov.uk

Enhancing contact with families

Title: Interventions that enhance health-professional contact with parents and infants to improve child development and social and emotional wellbeing in the early years in high-income countries: a systematic review
Publication source: The Lancet
Publication date: November 2016
Authors: Hurt, L. Paranjothy, S. Lucas, P.J. Watson, D. Mann, M.  Griffiths, L. Ginja, S. Paljarvi, T. Williams, J. Bellis, M. and Lingam, R.

Our Summary:

This thorough review examines the evidence for additional professional universal services designed to improve child outcomes from antenatal to 2 years-old. Out of the 21 random control trials that were examined, the authors argue that 15 were deemed to be biased, or at risk of being biased, when the Cochrane criteria was applied, showing the under or overestimation of the true effect of the intervention. The authors also argue that more robust assessment of additional interventions is required.

For more information see the Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions (Chapter 8), used to inform healthcare decisions.

How we’re applying the research in Southend:

  • Using our test and learn method we’re establishing robust processes to assess all of our developing projects.
  • These processes will be used in the development of our enhanced Healthy Child Programme.

Join the debate

  • How can we ensure that our test and learn projects are robust in terms of evaluation and gathering evidence?
  • How can we ensure that we don’t under or overestimate the impact of our projects?

Let us know what you think by e-mailing abetterstart@southend.gov.uk

Social and emotional

Title: Assessing early childhood social and emotional development: Key conceptual and measurement issues
Research source: Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology
Publication date: March 2016
Authors: Jones, S.M. Zaslow, M. Darling-Churchill, K.E. Halle, T.G.

Our Summary:

This study examines the literature looking at early childhood social and emotional measurement. The authors argue that there is a lack of conceptual and definitional clarity in this field. On this basis, it is argued that progress will only be made when there is more critical thinking in terms of linking a child’s development to other outcomes, and that more technical information should be available in publications.

How we’re applying the research in Southend:

  • We recognise that our key developmental outcomes (e.g. Social and Emotional, Communications and Language, and Diet and Nutrition) are linked to each other.
  • All our work looks at the child as a whole and we recognise this in our overarching outcomes, which are supported by our three key developmental outcomes above.

Join the debate

  • Which measures can help us gauge our impact in terms of our three developmental outcomes?
  • How can we ensure that we have robust measures, which are open and transparent?
  • How can we ensure that our measures are constantly evolving whilst enabling us to look at impact over time?

Let us know what you think by e-mailing abetterstart@southend.gov.uk

Diet and nutrition

Title: Dietary intake patterns of children aged 6 years and their association with socioeconomic and demographic characteristics, early feeding practices and body mass index
Research source: BMC Public Health
Publication date: 6 October 2016
Authors: Santos, L.P. Maria Assunção, C.F.  Matijasevich, A. Santos, I.S. and Barros, A.J.D.

Our Summary:

The study examines the dietary patterns of 6 year-olds and links them with their early feeding practices (e.g. breastfeeding duration), and socioeconomic and demographic characteristics. The authors argue that dietary intake is strongly influenced by socioeconomic characteristics. Other patterns which appear to be related to unhealthy eating are younger maternal age at birth, early weaning and early complementary feeding. Overweight and obese children were also found to have a lower intake of four of the seven identified dietary components.

How we’re applying the research in Southend:

  • Diet and nutrition is one of our key developmental outcomes.
  • We are providing additional breastfeeding support in the Southend area.
  • Our crèche service is receiving Healthy Eating and Nutrition for the Really Young (HENRY) training in order to provide additional support to local families.

Join the debate

  • How can we best support families in terms of infant feeding and weaning?
  • How can we help parents to understand complex diet and nutrition information?

Let us know what you think by e-mailing abetterstart@southend.gov.uk

Diet and nutrition

Title: Mothers’ perceptions of the influences on their child feeding practices – A qualitative study
Research source: Appetite
Publication date: June 2016
Authors: Spence, A.C., Hesketh, K.D. Crawford, D.A. Campbell, K.J.

Our Summary:

Children’s diets are important determinants of their health, but they typically do not meet recommended standards. The way parents feed their children is key, but not well understood. This qualitative study looks at parents’ perceptions of what has influenced their feeding practices and behaviour. In particular, many mothers reported being unaware of some recommended methods, but that learning about them and adopting them made feeding their child easier.

How we’re applying the research in Southend:

Join the debate

  • How do families want to receive messages about healthy eating and feeding their babies?
  • How can we learn more about the intergenerational impact of healthy eating messages?
  • How can peer support be used to improve healthy eating and infant feeding?

Let us know what you think by e-mailing abetterstart@southend.gov.uk

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