Interventions for parents to strengthen family relationships and benefit children: 40 years of research in 40 minutes

Phil Cowan & Carolyn Cowan

(UC Berkeley)

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Date: April 29, 2015


Couples groups, father involvement interventions, and parenting classes have all been promoted as programs that will improve the lives of children. Each of these approaches ignores at least one key feature of the other two. In this talk we describe a new intervention approach that invites couples to work in small groups with clinically trained co-leaders, involves fathers, helps to increase couple satisfaction and parenting effectiveness and lower parenting stress – and has positive effects on children from 18 months to 10 years after the intervention ends. We describe a 5-domain model of risk and protective factors that affect fathers’ involvement, both parents’ satisfaction, and children’s development. We present data from three longitudinal studies that include 4 randomized trials and a replication, with an intervention model that addresses each of these aspects of family life. In each intervention trial we find support for the model: Improving couple and co-parenting relationships and preventing the normative decline in relationship satisfaction over time in parents of young children affects father involvement, parenting quality, and positive outcomes for children. We conclude with a brief discussion of some policy issues raised by current controversies about the effectiveness of couples group interventions.

Created: Friday, May 1st, 2015