Parenting

Good parenting and the relationship between parent and child is critical to the development and health of the child and future outcomes throughout childhood and as an adult. More specifically, bonding, attachment and attunement between parent and child from birth has critical implications throughout life for the health and wellbeing of the child and future adult.

The ability to make a relationship with a child is not innate but is a reflection of the type of relationships the parent has experienced in the past and currently. Where the parent has had difficult childhood relationships and is now lacking good support from a partner, family or friends making a secure relationship with the baby is harder but with support, parents can learn to be nurturing and sensitive to the baby’s needs .

Responsibility for encouraging, supporting and nurturing good parents falls both to the early years workforce and to wider society. The expertise and experience of the community and voluntary sector is crucial to this area of the early years agenda and working in partnership is essential.

 

Parenting and Health Inequalities from 3-5 years

Sensitive and appropriate responses from parents to children's needs remain key during this time, while communication and negotiation through speech gain importance as language skills develop.

Targeted supports for specific problems and vulnerable families, pre-school education and positive home learning environments can help mitigate health and social inequalities.

Quick Links:

What are health inequalities?

The WHO defines health inequalities as "differences in health status or in the distribution of health determinants between different population groups."

For a general discussion of health inequalities and the early years, please see Inequalities in the Early Years.

Policy context

Activity in this area is consistent with commitments and priorities detailed in The Early Years Framework and the National Parenting StrategyEqually WellAchieving our Potential, a range of NHS Scotland's Quality Indicators and is relevant to Scotland's national practice model for child-centred services - Getting it Right for Every Child (all external links).

Under the terms of the Disability Discrimination Act, public sector service providers must discharge their Disability Equality Duty to promote equality of opportunity for people with disabilities, including those with communication support needs or communication disabilities.

What do we mean by 'Positive Parenting'?

Parents are the primary caregivers for a child, whether birth parent, adoptive parent, foster carer or corporate carer such as in local authority care.

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child asserts that:

'...the child, for the full and harmonious development of his or her personality,should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding.'

Under the age of about eighteen months, the main focus of parenting should be on sensitive attunement and recognition of the child’s needs for nurturance and responsiveness. At about eighteen months children begin to be more active in asserting their wishes. While responsiveness and sensitive nurturance remain important, children now need support to manage their behaviour and to start to develop  emotional self-regulation

The National Parenting Strategy (external link) considers positive parenting in the following way:

‘Loving children doesn't mean always letting them have their own way. It involves providing a positive role model, setting appropriate boundaries and applying them consistently, all of which is integral to a secure, safe and nurturing home environment. This also helps children learn what's acceptable behaviour and what's not, how to get along with people and how to resolve differences in an appropriate way - essential life skills that can all be learned by families doing basic activities such as talking and listening, eating together, doing chores together and critically, playing together.’ (p.12)

The Getting it Right for Every Child (external link) approach introduced by the Scottish Government provides a checklist parents can use to measure the wellbeing of children and which is re-iterated by the National Parenting Strategy:

  • Safe - protected from abuse, neglect or harm
  • Healthy - experiencing the highest standards of physical and mental health, and supported to make healthy safe choices
  • Achieving - receiving support and guidance in their learning, boosting their skills, confidence and self-esteem
  • Nurtured - having a nurturing and stimulating place to live and grow
  • Active - offered opportunities to take part in a wide range of activities, helping them to build a fulfilling and happy future
  • Respected - to be given a voice and involved in the decisions that affect their wellbeing
  • Responsible - taking an active role within their schools and communities
  • Included - receiving help and guidance to overcome social, educational, physical and economic inequalities; accepted as full members of the communities in which they live and learn.

How do inequalities relate to parenting in 3-5s?

A range of factors related to inequalities can impact on parents' ability to meet the needs of their children.

These are influenced by the social, economic and political structures of a society and consequent access to resources.

Though not to be mistaken as direct causes, a useful list of influencing factors can be found on p32, Evidence Summary: Interventions to support parents, their infants and children in the early years (pregnancy to 5 years) (external link)).

Another aspect of parenting which can be affected by inequalities relates to the impact the quality of the home learning environment can have on speech, language and communication development.

For a fuller discussion, please see our sections on Speech, Language and Communication Development (SL&CD) and Health Inequalities from 3-5 Years.

Inequalities and attachment styles

By the age of 3, a child will have developed its 'attachment style', though it will continue to be influenced by his or her interactions with parents and other caregivers.

For a brief discussion on attachment and its relationship to inequalities, please see the section on Inequalities and attachment styles in 0-3s.

For a fuller overview, please consult the 2012 Health Scotland briefing paper A Brief Guide to Attachment (external link) which summarises available evidence in this area.

Promoting positive parenting for parents of 3-5s

On a broad level, effective interventions include home visiting of vulnerable children, by suitably skilled health professionals (e.g. health visitors), high quality childcare and education and enhanced specialist programmes for those identified as experiencing difficulties.

A review of research evidence by Health Scotland, Evidence summary: Interventions to support parents, their infants and children in the early years (pregnancy to 5 years) (external link) found that the following interventions are associated with improved outcomes (parent-child interaction, secure attachment, child cognitive and social development):

  • media-based parenting programmes
  • group-based parenting programmes.

Guidance and interventions for parents on the following topics is effective in improving outcomes:

  • sleep
  • promoting 'time-out' as an alternative to physical punishment
  • video-taped parent-child interactions with professional feedback.

Where specific problems have been identified in older children behaviour problems, parental drug addiction or where parents have a recognised learning disability, there is evidence that targeted training and professional supports improve outcomes.

When targeted at 'at risk' groups, well-resourced early childhood development programmes that include centre-based and home visiting supports improve child and longer term health and development outcomes.

A good example of a targeted approach in current use with young mothers in Scotland is the Family Nurse Partnership.

Other examples used widely with parents are 'Triple P'(external link) over children over three and Mellow Parenting (external link)

Identifying those at risk

Because those at risk can be difficult to identify, it's important to link with other professionals who may know more about the family and their circumstances, e.g. Speech and Language Therapists, carers, GPs, social workers, health visitors, nursery school and other childcare staff, and voluntary sector agencies.

NICE PH40 Social and emotional wellbeing - early years (extrnal link) recommendations suggest that EY professionals develop trusting, non-judgemental relationships with families, which focus on the child’s needs.

Identification of risk factors should include consideration of things that affect the parent’s capacity to provide a loving and nurturing environment e.g. mental health, family circumstances.

Identification of risk should be part of ongoing developmental assessment and take into account emerging risk factors e.g. withdrawn or unresponsive, delayed speech or poor language skills, behavioural problems or indifferent or harsh behaviour from a parent towards a child.

A Pathway of Care for Vulnerable Families (0-3) (external link) sets out key contact points and interactions for those working with vulnerable families.

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Providing information and support to parents

The 2012 Health Scotland paper Exploration of the information support needs of parents (external link), was the result of in-depth work with 132 parents from across Scotland.

It found that parents preferred 'personal, empathetic support from individuals in dealing with their specific needs for information and support on child health and parenting'.

Three overarching themes emerged:

  1. Parent information/support is undermined when parents feel marginalised
  2. ‘Trust’ shapes how information is sought, received and used
  3. Parents respond most positively to personalised information and support.

 

Among its recommendations, the report emphasises the need for:

  • continuing professional development for staff to enable them to present more personalised information and support
  • alternative formats, products and services that more fully take account of the needs, views and preferences of young mothers, fathers and parents with literacy issues
  • increased opportunities for face-to-face peer support and virtual social networks.

Many of these actions may require additional support and resources for frontline staff from management - see advice for service managers and commissioners.

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Articles in this topic

Policy

Evidence

Professional support materials

  • External Resource

    Care Coordination Network (CCNUK)

    CCNUK is a networking organisation promoting and supporting care co-ordination or key working for disabled children.

    • When was this published? 5/7/2013
  • External Resource

    Childrens workforce development council

    The Toolkit is a searchable database of parenting interventions designed to provide information and guidance for commissioners, service managers and programme developers on the quality and effectiveness of parenting programmes/approaches

    • When was this published? 8/24/2010
  • External Resource

    Early years information pathway (revised 2013) [313KB]

    This document lists the publications and documents that clients may need, from application forms for benefits, to advice on pregnancy and young children.

    • When was this published? 5/29/2013
  • External Resource

    Early Years Scotland

    Early Years Scotland delivers support and guidance to providers of pre-school education and childcare services operating throughout mainland Scotland and the Islands.

    • When was this published? 8/17/2010
  • External Resource

    Fatherhood Institute

    This organisation gathers research material for professionals about fatherhood, and gives guidance on supporting new fathers.

    • When was this published? 5/6/2013
  • External Resource

    HandsOnScotland Website

    HandsOnScotland is an online resource for anybody working with or caring for children and young people. It provides practical information and techniques on how to respond helpfully to children and young people's troubling behaviour and offers advice and activities on how to help them flourish.

    • When was this published? 11/15/2010
  • External Resource

    Making gender equality real for children, young people and their fathers

    This website run by Children in Scotland supports and encourages service providers to involve fathers positively in their children's lives. It is aimed at professionals providing services for children and families.

    • When was this published? 11/8/2010
  • External Resource

    Mellow Parenting, Mellow Babies

    Mellow Parenting is a 14 week, one-day-a-week group designed to support families with relationship problems, along with their infants and young children.

    • When was this published? 9/26/2010
  • External Resource

    National Parenting Development Project: Summary Report [175KB]

    This project aimed to develop the range and quality of parent support services across Scotland.

    • When was this published? 9/26/2010
  • External Resource

    Parenting Across Scotland

    A partnership of adult relationship organisations and children's charities working together on issues affecting parents and families in Scotland. They run parent hotlines and have a professional remit coordinating and helping to impact policy.

    • When was this published? 8/17/2010
  • External Resource

    Peep (Peers Early Education Partnership)

    Peep (Peers Early Education Partnership) is an evidenced based, universal, parenting programme for children and families aged 0-5 years. The programme focuses on building relationships and early communication skills and is also an adult learning programme.

    • When was this published? 7/7/2011
  • External Resource

    Play, Talk, Read website

    Information, tips and resources for introducing Play, Talk and Read to babies and young children.

    • When was this published? 5/6/2013
  • External Resource

    Scottish Childminding Association

    SCMA provides support, training and information to childminders to ensure they are confident they offer the best possible service.

    • When was this published? 8/17/2010
  • External Resource

    The Incredible Years Programme

    The Incredible Years, is an award-winning parent training, teacher training, and child social skills training approaches have been selected by the U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention as an "exemplary" best practice program.

    • When was this published? 9/26/2010
  • External Resource

    Vulnerable Families Pathway

    This pathway aims to strengthen support for vulnerable children and families.

    • When was this published? 5/7/2013
  • External Resource

    WithScotland

    WithScotland supports child protection policy, practice and research. It provides a range of inter-agency research, policy and practice to support professionals, groups and organisations who work in child care and protection.

    • When was this published? 5/27/2013

Information for the public

  • External Resource

    A guide for gay dads

    The guide has taliored information for gay men who wish to become parents. It contains information on adoption, fostering, surrogacy, sperm donation and parenting.

    • When was this published? 2/16/2011
  • External Resource

    AFASIC unlocking speech and language

    The Association For All Speech Impared Children (AFASIC) is a charity that works with young people who have difficulties with speech, language and communication.

    • When was this published? 8/17/2010
  • External Resource

    Allergy UK

    A leading national charity dedicated to supporting the estimated 21 million allergy sufferers in the UK. Providing a dedicated helpline, support network and online forum for those with allergy and intolerance.

    • When was this published? 8/8/2014
  • External Resource

    Asthma UK Scotland

    Asthma UK is the charity dedicated to improving the health and well-being of the 5.4 million people in the UK whose lives are affected by asthma.

    • When was this published? 8/17/2010
  • External Resource

    Capability Scotland

    Capability works with disabled people of all ages and their families and carers throughout Scotland. It also campaigns for the rights of disabled people (external site).

    • When was this published? 8/17/2010
  • External Resource

    Care Coordination Network (CCNUK)

    CCNUK is a networking organisation promoting and supporting care co-ordination or key working for disabled children.

    • When was this published? 5/7/2013
  • External Resource

    Contact a Family

    This UK-wide charity provides advice, information and support to the parents of disabled children.

    • When was this published? 8/17/2010
  • External Resource

    Cystic Fibrosis (CF) Trust

    The CF trust offers information, advice and financial support to people with Cystic Fibrosis and their families.

    • When was this published? 8/17/2010
  • External Resource

    ENABLE

    ENABLE Scotland is a charity that campaigns for the rights of people with learning disabilities, as well as offering help and support to them and their families.

    • When was this published? 8/17/2010
  • External Resource

    Family Fund

    This charity helps families with severely disabled children on low incomes. It offers grants for a wide range of things, including household appliances, computers and holidays.

    • When was this published? 8/17/2010
  • External Resource

    Hyperactive Children’s Support Group

    This charity offers help to children that suffer from ADHD and hyperactivity, and their parents.

    • When was this published? 8/17/2010
  • External Resource

    MPS Society (Society for Mucopolysaccharide Diseases)

    The MPS Society (Society for Mucopolysaccharide Diseases) is a voluntary support group which represents children and adults suffering from Mucopolysaccharide and related Lysosomal Storage Diseases including Fabry Disease, their families, carers and professionals.

    • When was this published? 8/17/2010
  • External Resource

    One Parent Families Scotland

    Being a lone parent can be a complicated business. This organisation provides a range of factsheets covering many of the issues faced by single parents. Individual copies are free to all.

    • When was this published? 8/17/2010
  • External Resource

    Parenting Across Scotland

    A partnership of adult relationship organisations and children's charities working together on issues affecting parents and families in Scotland. They run parent hotlines and have a professional remit coordinating and helping to impact policy.

    • When was this published? 8/17/2010
  • External Resource

    Parentline Scotland

    Parentline is a confidential helpline, email and web chat service for anyone caring for or concerned about a child.

    • When was this published? 8/17/2010
  • External Resource

    Play, Talk, Read website

    Information, tips and resources for introducing Play, Talk and Read to babies and young children.

    • When was this published? 5/6/2013
  • External Resource

    Ready Steady Toddler!

    A website for the public with information, tips and advice for bringing up toddlers.

    • When was this published? 9/30/2010
  • External Resource

    Relationships Scotland

    Relationship counselling, family mediation, child contact centres and other forms of family support across mainland and island Scotland.

    • When was this published? 9/26/2010
  • External Resource

    Scottish Adoption Association

    This charity prepares, assesses and supports prospective adoptive parents who live within a 60 mile radius of its office in Leith (Edinburgh area).

    • When was this published? 8/17/2010
  • External Resource

    Scottish Association for Children with Heart Disorders

    A charity that supports children and young adults with congenital heart disorders, and the families.

    • When was this published? 8/17/2010
  • External Resource

    Scottish Autism

    The Society has been supporting families in Scotland affected by autism for over 40 years.

    • When was this published? 8/17/2010
  • External Resource

    Scottish Refugee Council

    An independent charity providing advice and information to people seeking asylum and refugees living in Scotland.

    • When was this published? 8/17/2010
  • External Resource

    Scottish Spina Bifida Association

    A Scottish charity for spina bifida, hydrocephalus and related conditions.

    • When was this published? 8/17/2010
  • External Resource

    Single parent families - Q&A fact sheets [857KB]

    Fact sheets providing information for single parent families on a range of subjects including money, childcare, education and employment.

    • When was this published? 5/27/2013
  • External Resource

    Sleep Scotland

    Sleep Scotland supports families of children and young children with severe sleep problems.

    • When was this published? 5/7/2013
  • External Resource

    Take life on website

    This website contains handy tips to help you improve your health and wellbeing

    • When was this published? 9/26/2010
  • External Resource

    You and your little child

    Book for parents with learning disabilities with children aged 1 - 5 years. This book is available free of charge to Early Years professionals in Scotland from NHS Health Scotland as an alternative to Ready Steady Toddler! To order contact nhs.HealthScotland-EarlyYears@nhs.net.

    • When was this published? 2/15/2011