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Sunday 29 January 2023 Dublin: 8°C
Conor Healy Photography Elaine McCann with her daughter Chloe who took part in the Preparing for Life.
# preparing for life
Children whose parents are mentored are less likely to be overweight or have lower IQs
That’s according to the results of a major early childhood intervention programme that was trialled in north Dublin.

CHILDREN’S IQ, health and behaviour can be improved by mentoring their parents.

That’s according to the results of a major early childhood intervention programme that was trialled in north Dublin.

Results from the Preparing for Life initiative announced today show dramatic impacts on children’s IQ, obesity levels and social behaviour.

The study is one of the first of its kind ever carried out in Europe. It focused on intensively mentoring parents, in areas where children struggled at school, from midway through pregnancy until their children started primary school.

The evaluation of the programme shows that by age four the IQ scores of children whose parents were being mentored were 10 points higher than those whose parents weren’t. Some 13% of the intervention group children scored below average for cognitive development at age four, compared to 57% of the control group.

The children whose parents were mentored were also less likely to be overweight (23% compared to 41%) and had fewer behavioural problems (2% compared to 17%). Further findings show that children in the first group were more likely to receive their recommended dietary allowance of protein (33% compared to 23%) and were immunised earlier.

The intervention was delivered in Dublin 17 and Dublin 5 by Preparing for Life, part of the Northside Partnership, and evaluated by a team at the Geary Institute for Public Policy at University College Dublin using a randomised control trial.

‘Healthier, smarter and well-adjusted’

Dr Orla Doyle, lead researcher for the study, said the results are significant.

“The Preparing for Life study included 233 parents who were randomly allocated into an intervention group or control group. All families received some supports, but the families in the intervention group received intensive parenting supports.

These are all statistically significant and in some cases dramatic results. The programme has changed the life trajectories of these children; they are healthier, smarter and well-adjusted. The results show that developing the skills and knowledge of parents is a particularly effective and impactful approach to changing and improving outcomes for children.

Parents taking part in the programme received approximately 50 home visits from trained mentors. They also had the opportunity to participate in a parenting course when their children reached age two.

Parenting_for_life_10 Conor Healy Photography Marian Dennis and her son Jamie McClure Dennis who took part in the Preparing for Life. Conor Healy Photography

To chart the impact of the programme, parents in both groups took part in research visits involving questionnaires, observations and direct assessments when their children were six months old, one year old, one-and-a-half, two years old, three years old and four years old.

New minister

Preparing for Life manager Noel Kelly called on the new Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Katherine Zappone, to consider applying the programme in other communities.

He estimates that it would cost at most €2,000 per family per year to deliver.

“We believe that parents are the most important resource we have to improve child outcomes. By investing in and enabling parents, Preparing for Life has demonstrated that it is possible to significantly transform children’s lives,” Kelly said.

The programme was established in 2007 with funding from the Atlantic Philanthropies and the Department of Children and Youth Affairs through the Prevention and Early Intervention Programme. It recently received further funding to continue its work until August 2017.

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