Australian parenting program reduces child health issues in Ireland

The University of Queensland’s Triple P – Positive Parenting Program significantly reduces the number of serious cases of emotional and behavioural problems in children when used as a public health strategy, interim findings of a major independent evaluation have found.

A study conducted by the National University of Ireland on the introduction of Triple P to families in the Irish Midlands showed Triple P significantly improved a range of outcomes for both children and parents when used as a population-based health strategy.

Speaking at the Helping Families Change Conference in Sydney, founder of the program and director of UQ’s Parenting and Family Support Centre, Prof Matt Sanders, said it was now up to Australian governments to consider making the program available on a population level for Australian families.

“Australian Governments have paid for the research and development of a program that is helping families all over the world,’’ Prof Sanders said. “What would be great is if Australian families could get better access to Triple P. It’s going to take political will, forethought and planning. But really, the only way it’s going to happen is if Australian families demand it.’’

Prof Sanders said a population approach was necessary to ensure benefits flowed to all children not just those targeted by service agencies as such approaches missed the majority of children with conduct problems.

The Irish report shows that in two counties where Triple P was made available, the total number of children identified as having serious emotional and behavioural problems decreased by 35.27 per cent. Within this category, the number of serious cases of children with conduct problems was reduced by 30.05% and serious cases of emotional symptoms decreased by 29.67%.

The findings were compared with data collected from one larger county where Triple P was not made available. In this county, emotional and behavioural problems increased over the same period by 21.76 per cent.
The Irish report adds to a growing body of international evidence supporting the value of Triple P as both a targeted response for vulnerable families and a way to improve the lives of children and families across an entire population. The Triple P system is now available in 25 countries internationally.

Prof Sanders said the Irish study showed the importance of parenting programs being seen as a natural and normal thing to take part in and something people aspired to do.

“In communities such as Longford and Westmeath in the Irish Midlands, the research shows that parents who did Triple P spoke to their friends and neighbours about their experiences, giving each other tips from the program. This is the kind of thing that builds social momentum for positive parenting.

“It means you’ve got a major conversation going on in the community about raising your children. That is a very powerful influence and it’s how change occurs.’’

The implementation of Triple P in the Irish Midlands was conducted by a collaborative organisation called Longford Westmeath Parenting Partnership, comprising nine member organisations. The implementation was partly funded by donations from Atlantic Philanthropies.

The NUI study looked at results from 1500 randomly assigned interviews in two counties where Triple P was made available, Longford and Westmeath. These were compared to responses from approximately 1500 families in a larger county where Triple P was not introduced.

As well as reporting reduced symptoms of emotional distress and difficult behaviour in their children, parents in counties where Triple P was delivered were also more likely to use appropriate discipline strategies, their levels of psychological distress were less and they were more likely to find parenting a good experience.

They also were more likely to report good relationships with their children and consistent parenting practices with their partners.

A population-based health strategy makes use of Triple P’s multi-level approach. In Longford Westmeath, Triple P was available to families of children aged three to seven.

The program is delivered across a range of intensity levels, from a light-touch media campaign to more intensive eight-week delivery programs.

For footage or to interview Prof Matt Sanders or Conor Owens, HSE project director, contact Paddy Hintz on 0431 706822 or