The baby Triple P project - Effects of a parenting intervention to promote a successful transition to parenthood

Spry, Carmen Helen Monika (2013). The baby Triple P project - Effects of a parenting intervention to promote a successful transition to parenthood PhD Thesis, School of Psychology, The University of Queensland.

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Author Spry, Carmen Helen Monika
Thesis Title The baby Triple P project - Effects of a parenting intervention to promote a successful transition to parenthood
Formatted title
The Baby Triple P Project - Effects of a Parenting Intervention to Promote a Successful Transition to Parenthood
School, Centre or Institute School of Psychology
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2013
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Matt Sanders
Alina Morawska
Total pages 242
Total colour pages 5
Total black and white pages 237
Language eng
Subjects 170106 Health, Clinical and Counselling Psychology
111707 Family Care
Formatted abstract
Effects of a Parenting Intervention to Promote a Successful Transition to Parenthood

    The transition to parenthood is a common experience for couples and for most, the birth of a first child is a joyfully anticipated event. At the same time, we know that becoming a parent is also a major life transition, which means that individuals, couples and family systems need to undergo a process of psychological adaptation. Research has shown that between ten and twenty percent of new mothers and fathers are diagnosed with postnatal depression and that for at least half of all couples becoming parents, the satisfaction with their couple relationship decreases significantly following the birth of the first child. Couples often spend less time together in joint leisure activities, they experience more conflict and more negative communication patterns and women in particular, voice feeling dissatisfied with the division of household labour. While having a strong social support network has a buffering effect on the psychological and practical challenges the transition to parenthood brings about, many new parents report feeling overwhelmed and isolated in the first few months after birth. From the infant’s perspective, the first year of life is of crucial importance. Sensitive and responsive parenting, which is signified by parents responding immediately and consistently to their infants and by expressing warmth and affection towards them, has been shown to result in secure parent child attachment relationships. This attachment security, in turn, has positive effects in a range of different domains, including language development, self regulation of emotions and social competence.

    This thesis presents a program of research exploring the transition to parenthood. The aims of the research were threefold. The first aim was to synthesize key literature in the area with particular emphasis on: identifying the challenges that new parents are faced with in the areas of individual adjustment, couple adjustment and early parenting; reviewing previous interventions aimed at new parents and to examine the risk and protective factors that are present in these areas in order to inform development of a new parenting intervention. The second aim was to evaluate the efficacy of a new transition to parenthood intervention on multiple parenting, individual, and couple outcomes, including postnatal depression, parent-infant bonding and relationship satisfaction. The third aim was to develop and evaluate a structured assessment instrument to measure infant’s behavior and parental self-efficacy, which could be used in further research studies for the transition to parenthood.

    Chapter 1 provides a framework for the thesis by summarizing the trials and tribulations of the transition to parenthood on an individual and couple level as well as its impact on wider social networks such as friendships and extended family. It outlines some important aspects of how the transition to parenthood has changed throughout the last century and how research in psychology has attempted to track these changes using empirical studies.

    Chapter 2 focuses on early parenting and begins by outlining why early parenting is important, what constitutes positive parenting in the first year of life and how positive parenting from the start can impact in children’s lives long term. The Chapter then highlights the different aspects that impact on early parenting, including parent characteristics (such as parenting experience, parental mood, parental stress and fatigue, the couple relationship, parent’s own history of being parented and a series of cognitive processes such as realistic expectations, knowledge of child development, beliefs and attributions as well as self-efficacy). Because the parent-infant relationship is bi-directional in nature, it is important to also consider how the infant’s characteristics and the infant’s behavior influences early parenting. The most salient aspects will be outlined including baby’s temperament, baby’s crying and baby’s sleep patterns. Finally, early parenting does not occur in a vacuum. Instead, it is embedded within a wider social context which significantly influences the parent-infant relationship; some of these contextual factors will be described, including the home environment, family structure, socioeconomic variables and the role of social support.

    Chapter 3 provides a narrative review of previous interventions targeting the transition to parenthood focusing on those interventions which were preventative in nature and which have measured child outcome.

    Central to the research program presented in this thesis is the development of a new parenting intervention (Baby Triple P) to promote a successful transition to parenthood. Chapter 4 describes in detail the empirical basis for this new intervention, including a summary of the evidence base for Triple P and an argument for a population approach to parenting. It then outlines the risk and protective factors during this major life transition for both the child and the parent, on which the new intervention is based. The Chapter then describes key aspects in program development and presents a rationale for the structure, process and content of the new parenting intervention.

    While regulatory problems in infancy to do with sleep, crying and feeding are common, there are currently no standardized structured measures of behaviour to assess these issues. Chapter 5 describes the development and evaluation of a structured instrument to measure infant behaviour and parental self-efficacy. The psychometric properties of the scale, including results of a factor analysis and data on the reliability and validity of the measure are presented.

    The second research aim is addressed in Chapter 6. The efficacy of a group parenting intervention for couples expecting their first baby was evaluated in a randomised controlled trial (RCT). The aim of the intervention was to prepare couples for a positive transition to parenthood by teaching them core skills in the domains of parenting their baby, taking care of their own wellbeing and maintaining a positive relationship with their partner. The outcomes of the intervention are described with regards to parent’s individual adjustment, early parenting and the couple relationship and the implications are discussed.

    The final chapter, Chapter 7, reviews the research findings and discusses the main implications for research, clinical practice and policy. Key future directions for transition to parenthood research are presented.

    Together these studies contribute significantly to our understanding of the psychological challenges for the individual, the couple and the family unit when undergoing the transition to first time parenthood. The findings have significant implications for assisting parents more effectively in preparing not only for the birth of their baby but also for parenting in the early months as well as for preserving their own well being and the happiness in their couple relationship.
Keyword Parenting
Transition to parenthood
Triple P
Baby Triple P

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Created: Mon, 24 Jun 2013, 14:14:37 EST by Ms Carmen Spry on behalf of Scholarly Communication and Digitisation Service