Bringing up babies and toddlers is not easy and some parents can feel unable to cope with the demands placed upon them. Parents can lose confidence and become depressed which in turn can lead to less positive and more punitive parenting. The first five years are of crucial importance in a child's development and unpredictable parental behaviour, physical abuse, harsh discipline and a lack of supervision/monitoring of the child's behaviour during this period can lead to the development of antisocial behaviour, social rejection, academic failure and membership of deviant peer groups later on in life. Concerns about this have led to the development of early intervention programmes designed to support healthy development in families with young children. One such programme is Home Start which works with volunteers who visit mothers for half a day once a week. The provision of social support by the volunteers is aimed at improving maternal well-being which, it is hoped, will lead to more positive parenting and a reduction in problem behaviour. A Dutch study of 105 sets of parents and children compared those who had taken part in Home Start with a control group. The results showed that the Home Start group had a significant increase in perceived parenting competence but no effect on maternal depressive mood. Parental consistency and observed sensitivity improved in the Home Start group although no effects were found for other parenting variables. Child behaviour problems diminished over time in both groups and there was no supplementary effect for Home Start as far as this was concerned.
Asscher, Jessica J., Hermanns, Jo M.A. and Dekovic, Maja Infant Mental Health Journal March/April 2008, 29(2), 95-113