Preventative intervention for social, emotional and behavioural difficulties in toddlers and their families: A pilot study

Publication Type:
Journal Article
International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 2019, 16 (4)
Issue Date:
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© 2019 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. Preventative intervention early in life is key to interrupting trajectories toward subsequent emotional and behavioural problems later in life. This study examined the effectiveness of the Holding Hands program, an innovative program of preventative intervention aimed at improving the behavioural and emotional functioning of 12 to 48-month-old toddlers, and the wellbeing of their parents. This program seeks to synthesise the existing evidence in four ways; it incorporates both traditional Parent Management Training and Direct Coaching methods. It is intensive, significantly reducing session numbers and it explicitly addresses parental emotion regulation. The program also utilises operant learning principals in an effort to contingently reinforce behaviour that parents want to see more of, without employing exclusionary strategies in response to behavior that parents want to see less of. Thirty-one families, with a toddler who met clinical or sub-clinical cut-offs for externalising or internalising problems, were self- or externally-referred to the six- to eight-week program. Results indicated statistically significant improvement in toddler emotional and behavioural functioning, and parent well-being on a range of psychometric measures from pre- to post-treatment. Treatment gains were maintained for parents and children at follow-up. Implications of these findings for clinical practice and suggestions for future research are discussed.
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