Welcome to the sixteenth edition of our A Better Start Southend Research Bulletin, bringing you the latest on ‘what works’ in early years’ around our outcomes: Social and Emotional Development, Diet and Nutrition, Communications and Language, Community Resilience and Systems Change.

Your regular update, edited by Rachel Wood, also shows how we are using these findings to influence our work in Southend as well as inviting you to help shape our ‘test and learn’ projects and innovations in prevention and early intervention.

If you would like to sign up to receive these updates, or have a question, please email abetterstart@pre-school.org.uk

The Cooperative Communication Framework(Communications and Language)
Public Breastfeeding (Diet and Nutrition)
Infant Temperament and Parenting (Social and Emotional Development)
Early intervention and Child Protection(Systems Change)
Review of Assessment and screening tools in the early years (Systems Change)

The Cooperative Communication Framework

Title: Renzi, D.T. Romberg, A.R. Bolger, D.J. and Newman, R.S. (2017), Two Minds Are Better Than One: Cooperative Communication as a New Framework for Understanding Infant Language Learning, Transnational Issues in Psychological Science, vol 3 (1), pp 19-33

Research source: http://psycnet.apa.org/record/2017-10606-003

Publication date: 2017

Our Summary: This article sets out to argue that a co-operative communication framework is a way in which we can understand the social mechanisms, which underpin the ways in which infants learn language.

As well as parental input, and infant behaviour, there seen to be a dynamic interplay in parent and infant communications. This article reviews the fields of social development and developmental psycholinguistics.

In addition, it is also argued that where parental responses are developmentally appropriate and responsive (attuned) this can be the crucial driver, which pushes an infant’s communication forward.

A successful communication requires social, cognitive and linguistic skills that centre on a sense of co-operation between the parent and the infant. The mechanisms for how ‘two minds are better than one’ it is argued are currently little understood.

The article also makes recommendations for the ways in which the learning might be embedded in practice.

How we’re applying this in Southend

  • We are further scaling our ‘Let’s Talk’ activities, our screening offer and workforce development in communications and language

Help us help Southend

  • How do you think that we could embed the understanding of co-operative communications into our services?

Let us know what you think by e-mailing abetterstart@pre-school.org.uk

Public Breastfeeding

Title: Buturovic, Z. Ignajatovic, S. Rasevic, M. (2017) Attitudes toward Breastfeeding and Breastfeeding Practice: Lack of Support for Breastfeeding in Public as a Factor in Low Breastfeeding Rates, Journal of Applied Health Science, vol, 3 (2), pp137-143

Research source: http://jahs.eu/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/001-JAHS-6.pdf

Publication date: December 2017

Our Summary: This study was undertaken in Serbia, which has one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the world.

The aim of the study was to determine attitudes towards public breastfeeding, along with other attitudes that might be held in breastfeeding.

A survey of 1884 adults was undertaken (mostly highly engaged mothers) which found that there was high levels of disapproval (23% disapproved and 13% strongly disapproved) of public breastfeeding. This is despite high levels of breastfeeding in the sample.

On this basis the authors argue that a breastfeeding culture, in addition to socio-demographics and institutional factors play a role in breastfeeding rates. They therefore propose that acceptance of public breastfeeding would improve breastfeeding rates.

How we’re applying this in Southend

  • We are in the process of designing and developing infant feeding projects, which will be available in groups and on a one-to-one basis;
  • Family Action (who run Southend’s Children’s Centres), supported by ABSS, have received a certificate of commitment to recognised best practice standards. The workforce will have the opportunity to receive training and Baby Friendly Initiative breastfeeding accreditation.

Help us help Southend

  • What are the others ways that we can ensure that mothers feel confident and able to continue breastfeeding if they wish?

Let us know what you think by e-mailing abetterstart@pre-school.org.uk

Infant Temperament and Parenting

Title: Laake, L.M. and Bridgett, DJ. (2018), Early Language Development in Context: Interactions Between Infant Temperament and Parenting Characteristics, Early Education and Development, DOI: 10.1080/10409289.2018.1436366

Research source: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10409289.2018.1436366?journalCode=heed20

Publication date: February 2018

Our Summary: This article looks at the development of early language in relation to the interaction between infant temperament and maternal caregiving. Early Language has been found to have important links to later educational achievement, however previous studies have had mixed results in terms of expressive (talking) versus receptive language (understanding).

118 mothers and their infants took part in this study in which mothers were asked to rate infant positive affect (PA – positive emotional experience) and negative affect (NA – negative emotional experience). Under observation, mothers undertook an observed free play activity when the infant was 10 months old.

On this basis, the study argues that it builds on previous work to increase our understanding of how both infant temperament and parenting behaviour contribute to language development.

They conclude by saying that expressive language seemed to benefit from “interactions between more affectively expressive infants and mothers who exhibit more supportive and less intrusive parenting behaviours,” (p14).

How we’re applying this in Southend

  • We are currently in the process of refreshing our social and emotional strategy. Join us at one of our service design meetings – contact rachel.wood@pre-school.org.uk for more information.

Help us help Southend

  • What are the ways that we can support sensitive parenting and positive emotional experiences for infants?

Let us know what you think by e-mailing abetterstart@pre-school.org.uk

Early intervention and Child Protection

Title: Axford, N. and Berry, V. (2017), Perfect bedfellows: why early intervention can play a critical role in protecting children – a response to Featherstone et al (2014) ‘A marriage made in hell: child protection meets early intervention, The British Journal of Social Work, DOI 10.1093/bjsw/bcx003

Research source: https://academic.oup.com/bjsw/article-abstract/48/1/254/3074702?redirectedFrom=fulltext

Publication date: January 2018

Our Summary: The authors review Featherstone’s (2014) article, which they argue questions the value of early intervention in child maltreatment. The authors do this by summarising and reviewing the findings through examining the:

  • difference between intervention and support;
  • tensions between fidelity and flexibility;
  • value of Randomised Controlled Trials;
  • evidence of ‘what works’;
  • use of neuroscience;
  • role of innovation; and
  • wider socio-economic factors

On this basis, the authors argue that whilst sympathetic to Featherstone’s that early intervention has been misrepresented, and propose that there is insufficient verifiable evidence to support this. They also propose an alternative vision (based on a public health or population approach) for child protection that attempts to address these concerns.

How we’re applying this in Southend

  • We are committed to an approach based on prevention and early intervention, and that allows for ‘test and learn’ (innovation);
  • Our projects and activities have a focus on evidence of ‘what works’.

Help us help Southend

  • In what ways can we innovate to support the issues raised by the authors?

Let us know what you think by e-mailing abetterstart@pre-school.org.uk

Review of Assessment and screening tools in the early years

Title: Dockrell, J. Llaurado, A. Hurry, J. Cowan, R. Flouri, E. Dawson, A. (2017), Review of Assessment Measures in the early years: Language and literacy, numeracy, and social emotional development and mental health, Education and Endowment Foundation, UCL, pp1-69

Research source: https://educationendowmentfoundation.org.uk/public/files/Review_of_assessment_measures_in_the_early_years.pdf

Publication date: December 2017

Our Summary: This systematic review looks at the availability of early years’ measures and screening tools for ages 0-6 years, which included:

  • Language;
  • Literacy;
  • Numeracy; and
  • Social and emotional development.

133 of the 146 measures were included in the review, all of which were used on a one-to-one basis. Proxy measures (by parents, or early education) were also included.

A wide range of language measures on established norms were identified, but there were far fewer available for numeracy and literacy.

Based on this search the research team asked the following four questions:

1 – Does the measure reflect the domain (e.g. language, social and emotional, cognitive etc.) that it is trying to measure?
2 – Is the measure appropriate for the target population?
3 – Is the measure developmentally appropriate?
4 – Does the test conform to minimum psychometric properties?

How we’re applying this in Southend

  • As part of our communications and language outcomes work we are currently offering, the Wellcomm screening tool, in conjunction with the Pre-School Language Scale
  • We have developed an inventory of measures and tools that are suitable for the early years for children 0-4th birthday and their parents and families. This study will be used as part of its review and update.

Help us help Southend

  • How could this information be used to help inform our service design and delivery processes?

Let us know what you think by e-mailing abetterstart@pre-school.org.uk

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