Welcome to the 25th 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’re using these findings to influence our work in Southend. In addition, we invite you to help shape our ‘test and learn’ projects and innovations in prevention and early intervention.

If you would like to suggest or contribute an article, or would like to sign up to receive these updates, or have a question, please e-mail: abssresearch@eyalliance.org.uk

Perinatal Wellbeing (Social and Emotional Development)
Child-Care and Children’s Diet Quality (Diet and Nutrition)
Infant Mental Health (Social and Emotional Development)
Parenting Intervention and Social Inequalities (Social and Emotional Development)

Perinatal Wellbeing

McLeish, J and Redshaw, M (2019), Maternity experiences of multiple disadvantages in England: A qualitative study, Women and Birth, 32, 178-184

Research source:

Publication date: 2019

Our Summary: This article looks at perinatal outcomes and the experiences of early health care.

This qualitative study involved interviews with 40 mothers.

The study found that the most common themes in the experiences were:

  • ‘A confusing and frightening time’ (associated with system complexity)
  • ‘Longing to be respected as an individual’ (systems need to be strength-based)
  • ‘The importance of choice and control’ (enabling autonomy and informed choice)
  • ‘Needing trust to feel safe’ (trust is crucial)

That there was a “sense of powerlessness and low self-esteem’ (p178).

On this basis it is argued that there is a need for high quality support which is kind, positive, accessible, and respectful.

How we’re applying this in Southend

  • A Better Start Southend is a strength-based programme
  • We run a ‘Mindful Mums and Babies’ course which runs for 6 weeks and looks at thoughts and feelings around low mood, anxiety and wellbeing in a safe, low key environment. If you would like to find out more about the service contact e-mail epunft.perinatalhvs@nhs.net or telephone 01702 220184

Help us help Southend

  • What other ways could be explore supporting perinatal outcomes?

Let us know what you think by e-mailing abssresearch@eyalliance.org.uk

Child-Care and Children’s Diet Quality

Benjamin-Neelon, S.E. Vaughn, A.E. Tovar, A. Østbye, T. Mazzuccab, S. and Ward, D.S. (2018), The family child care home environment and children’s diet quality, Appetite, 126 (July 01), 108-113

Research source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29601921

Publication date: 2018

Our Summary: This study looked at children’s dietary intake whilst in child-care settings. To explore this the study looked at the Healthy Eating Index and a wide range of other child diet measures. The researchers also undertook direct observation of children’s eating over a two-day period, with all meals and snacks being recorded.

The study found that the presence of positive nutrition policies in settings were an important contributor to child diet quality. However, the authors were unable to say as to whether this could be associated as an indicator of food quality in the setting.

It is well-known from the evidence that the environment for a child’s play is crucial to shaping children’s eating behaviour, and is therefore likely to be learned behaviour. The authors also argue that much of the evidence points to an association between responsive feeding practices (e.g. prompting to eat healthier foods, children respecting their own hunger and fullness, and not using food for reward or comfort); and healthy weight outcomes.

However, in this sample surprisingly the authors were unable to confirm this link.

The authors argue that investment in childcare practices that a focus on nutritional practice in settings is crucial.

How we’re applying this in Southend

Help us help Southend

  • In what new ways can we ensure that our communities have access to information and resources on healthy eating?

Let us know what you think by e-mailing abssresearch@eyalliance.org.uk

Infant Mental Health

Spry et al (2019), Maternal mental health and infant emotional reactivity: a 20-year two-cohort study of pre-conception and perinatal exposures, Psychological Medicine 1–11. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0033291719000709

Research source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30968786

Publication date: March 2019

Our Summary: It is well recognised that maternal mental health can be one of the main contributory factors to childhood emotional and behavioural difficulties in the developing child.

This research study argues that based on this and previous findings that the antenatal and infancy are critical times for prevention and early intervention and in having the most impact on infant mental health and improved mental health and wellbeing.

It also shows that even where there has been issues with maternal mental health that infants and children who experience less stressors early in life are still able to develop positively.

It also suggests that preconception support by services is also often required to prevent the development of childhood difficulties. It is argued that greater understanding of this could help further progress in evidence in this area.

88% of the women in the two Australian studies used seemed to show that pre-conception risk had a significant effect. It also argues that this was a critical indicator of infants and children that experienced intense emotional reactions.

How we’re applying this in Southend

Help us help Southend

  • What other ways can we support perinatal and infant mental health?

Let us know what you think by e-mailing abssresearch@eyalliance.org.uk

Parenting Intervention and Social Inequalities

Gardner et al (2019), Do parenting interventions increase social inequalities in child conduct problems? Pan-European Individual Participant Data (IPD) meta-analysis

Research source: https://kclpure.kcl.ac.uk/portal/en/publications/do-parenting-interventions-increase-social-inequalities-in-child-conduct-problems-paneuropean-individual-participant-data-ipd-metaanalysis(e4aaad2c-7889-4c95-8d57-9292cd6cdc09)/export.html

Publication date: 2019

Our Summary: This systematic review looked at parenting intervention evaluations that were published up to 2014 with a particular focus on preventing conduct and behavioural issues. Many of the studies within that range were found to be conflicting, and also that some communities were benefiting from them more than others (e.g. those with economic stressors).

The authors chose to focus on the Incredible Years Parenting Programme in that:

  • It has a substantial evidence base
  • It is a manualised intervention
  • It is recommended in the NICE Guidelines
  • It is widely adopted in Europe

The review found that the intervention was effective particularly in relation to reducing conduct behaviour difficulties in children.

However, it is argued that the authors were unable to find sufficient evidence in relation to some other areas of longer term development.

On this basis it is argued that if the effect was maintained over time that such evidence based parenting programmes would likely promote equity in terms of conduct disorders. Importantly, it was also found to be effective across a wide range of communities.

How we’re applying this in Southend

  • We have provided Evidence Based Parenting Programme early years workforce development (e.g. Incredible Years and Mellow)
  • We are currently offering Being a Parent courses that help parents learn practical skills to ensure they have confident, happy and co-operative children. This is an evidence-based programme based on the Empowering Parents, Empowering Communities model.

The Early Intervention Foundation guide book evidence rating can be found here

Help us help Southend

  • What other parenting support innovations do you think could be considered?

Let us know what you think by e-mailing abssresearch@eyalliance.org.uk

Leave a Reply