Welcome to the 26th 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.

This month’s edition is guest edited by Lauren Dolphin (ABSS Knowledge, Research and Evaluation Officer), and as always, we are showing 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

A Recent Evidence Review: Getting it right in the Early Years Foundation Stage (Communication and Language)
The Positive Effects of Additional Mealtime Support (Diet and Nutrition)
The Importance of Fathers’ Parenting upon Child Development (Social and Emotional Development)

A Recent Evidence Review: Getting it right in the Early Years Foundation Stage 

Pascal, C., Bertram, T., and Rouse, L. (2019),

Title: Getting it right in the Early Years Foundation Stage: a review of the evidence, The British Association for Early Childhood Education.

Research source:

Publication date: 2019

Our Summary: This 2019 publication provides an evidence base which aims to inform the government review of statutory Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) guidance. Two pieces of research took place – a review of literature, and a practitioner survey. This report weighs evidence from the last 10 years and explores aspects of the EYFS guidance which have been affirmed or need adjusting.

Prime Areas of Learning in the EYFS Framework include Personal, Social and Emotional Development; Communication and Language; and Physical Development. The review supports the prime areas of the EYFS as ‘particularly crucial and time sensitive’ in the early years and highlights the importance of early communication and language skills as ‘a basis for literacy, and in turn the importance of literacy in children’s long-term attainment and social and cultural life.’

Drawing from a strong evidence base, headline findings show that making small changes to guidance in the area of Communication and Language Development could be influential in tackling underachievement, particularly for less advantaged children.

Evidence indicates that communication and language development is a key area of learning from birth and there is a case for a strong focus on this area of learning throughout the Foundation years and even beyond. The review also acknowledges that all that all Areas of Learning are interconnected, demonstrating the holistic nature of young children’s development.

In working towards higher attainment, the Early Years and beyond, it recommends prioritising securing ‘good’ child outcomes which are identified under Characteristics of Effective Learning, Communication and Language Development, Personal, Social and Emotional Development and Physical Development.

How we’re applying this in Southend

  • In line with research indications that some areas of learning and development are particularly vital to focus on in the early years of life, A Better Start Southend uses a holistic approach, and aligns closely to the EYFS prime areas of learning by focusing upon a key outcome areas. These include Diet and Nutrition; Communication and Language; and Social and Emotional development.

Help us help Southend

  • What other ways can Language and Communication support early child development?

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

The Positive Effects of Additional Mealtime Support (Diet and Nutrition)

Globus, I., Latzer, Y., Pshetatzki, O., Levi, C.S., Shaoul, R., Elad, I. and Rozen, G.S., (2019).

Title: Effects of Early Parent Training on Mother-Infant Feeding Interactions. Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics40(2), pp.131-138.
doi: 10.1097/DBP.0000000000000625

Research source: https://cdn.journals.lww.com/jrnldbp/Abstract/2019/02000/Effects_of_Early_Parent_Training_on_Mother_Infant.7.aspx

Publication date: 2019

Our Summary: This study looked at whether interaction during mealtimes between Mothers and their one-year-olds was affected by receiving professional support in infant behaviour and nutrition. To explore this, the study monitored 42 control mothers and infants who received a small amount of support, and a second group of 86 mothers received extra support. This extra support included weekly workshops for Mothers and their infants (aged between 4 and 6 months), plus online guidance from a social worker and dietitian until the infant’s first birthday.

At age one, video of each infant’s mealtime was measured against the Chatoor Feeding Scale (CFS), to see if feeding interactions were different for each group.

Results show there was a clear benefit for the group which received the extra support, with less distraction, struggling for control and conflict seen during their mealtimes. This led to more positive mealtime interactions among the group receiving greater support.

There was also evidence that more positive mother-infant feeding interactions may contribute to improved eating habits for infants in the long-term.

How we’re applying this in Southend

Help us help Southend

  • How could access to information and resources on healthy eating be strengthened for parents?

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

The Importance of Fathers’ Parenting upon Child Development (Social and Emotional Development)

McMahon, Grace E. et al. (2019).

Title: Influence of Fathers’ Early Parenting on the Development of Children Born Very Preterm and Full Term, The Journal of Pediatrics, 205, 195-201. doi:10.1016/j.jpeds.2018.09.073

Research source:

Publication date: 2019

Our Summary: This article explores how fathers impact upon their child’s later development. It also examines some factors previously cited to influence the way fathers parent.

By exploring these factors, the study found that fathers did not change their parenting behaviour towards infants who; were very premature, had higher medical risks, or were in families with greater social risks. This study challenges existing research, including previous reports that child illness is associated with decreased play, interaction, and affection by fathers – with no such effect shown by the current study.

In fact, the only factor shown to influence father’s parenting behaviour was the child’s gender. Compared to fathers of boys, the fathers of girls demonstrated:

  • Greater sensitivity (warmth and emotional connection to the child).
  • More structured parenting (guiding and scaffolding their child’s play well).
  • Less intrusiveness (not overprotective or very directive).
  • Less hostility (not impatient or abrasive).

These different parenting behaviours by fathers toward girls at age 1, held impacts upon their child’s development at age 2, as:

  • Greater sensitivity by fathers predicted the child’s higher language development.
  • Well-structured parenting led to higher cognitive and language development.
  • Fathers being non-intrusive led to lower externalising symptoms.

There is a clear need to include the valuable insight of fathers when designing services, and to support fathers’ early parenting behaviours, which are shown to hold great influence upon their child’s early neurodevelopment.

How we’re applying this in Southend

  • A Better Start Southend is a father-inclusive programme which reaches out to, supports, and engages with expectant and new fathers.
  • We run a nine-week Baby and Us course for parents from the four children’s centres in ABSS areas. The course aims to promote positive social and emotional wellbeing and nurturing and loving family environments for children. The course explores these themes in sessions which include ‘Connecting with Baby’, ‘Feelings’, and ‘Our Baby’s Personality’.
  • If you would like to find out more about the service contact 01702 220810 (option 1) for Cambridge Road Children’s Centre and Centre Place Family Centre 01702 220810 (option 2) for Friars Children’s Centre.

Help us help Southend

  • In what ways could fathers be more supported?

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

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