United Kingdom researchers have found that television delivered education can help parents develop effective management strategies for dealing with children’s behavioral problems and developmental issues.

That the media can be used constructively to provide parenting information and advice in an entertaining way, and can bring real positive outcomes to both parents and children is a welcome finding to many families.

In ‘The Great Parenting Experiment: The role of the mass media in preventing anti-social behavior in children,’ researchers from the University of Manchester studied a sample of the 4.2 million parents tuning into the first series in Spring 2005. Funded by the Home Office’s Respect Task Force, the team assessed how much watching the programs actually helped parents at home.

Parents watched a six-part television series that followed the progress of five families whose children showed clear behavioral problems.

The television families used a positive parenting approach (Triple P-Positive Parenting Program) that provided guidance on parenting skills to promote good behavior and emotional adjustment.

“This is the first national experiment to monitor parents working alongside a ‘TV info-tainment’ series and trying out the techniques shown. We wanted to assess whether, by adopting the ideas suggested, mums and dads were able to improve their children’s behavior and reduce their own stress levels”, said clinical psychologist Dr. Rachel Calam.

According to Calam, “465 parents completed an assessment of their children’s behavior, parenting practices, confidence as a parent, stress levels and family circumstances before the series, which was repeated 12 weeks after the series started and again six months later.

“Over 40% of the children who had had severe behavioral problems at the beginning of the study showed clinically-reliable changes in behavior, and moved into the ‘normal’ range on measures of disruptive behavior.”

“The parents also reported higher confidence in their ability to manage behavioral problems; 45% of them saying they were very much less likely to over-react to difficult behavior.”

The parents receiving the enhanced support showed fewer problems at the 12-week point in terms of child behavior problems, parenting practices, and parental conflict, but both levels of intervention proved effective at reducing levels of parental distress and conflict and modifying children’s behavior problems.

Researchers found that across the board, parents’ perceived an improved effectiveness including the ability to deal with difficult behaviors and situations (like bedtimes and taking children to the supermarket).

Source: University of Manchester