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Rationale: Theory suggests that when parents believe in their ability to positively influence their children, the children are at lower risk of poor developmental outcome. For this reason, parents’ sense of competence is a common target in early parenting interventions.
Objective: This study assessed effects on parents’ sense of competence, parenting stress, and symptoms of depression from a widely implemented universal and group-based parenting program.
Methods: In total, 1701 families were enrolled and randomised to one of two conditions a) participation in Family Start up Program (FSP), currently implemented at large scale in Denmark, or b) Care as Usual (CAU). FSP aims to empower new parents through knowledge and network. CAU is the public pre- and post-natal care available to families in both conditions. Recruitment was conducted between November 24, 2014, and February 1, 2017 at Aarhus University Hospital, from all incoming pregnant women within one of the larger Danish municipalities. In total, 4313 families were assessed for eligibility. Data were analysed as intention-to-treat and with n = 1255 (74%) mothers and n = 984 (60%) partners who responded at 10 months postpartum.
Results: When randomised to the FSP, 92% of the mothers and 94% of the partners received the intervention attending an average of 8.4 [SD = 3∙4] and 7.9 [SD = 3∙3] group meetings, respectively. The program evaluation data indicated that parents were satisfied with the program. We found no mean differences between FSP and CAU in parental sense of competence, parental stress, or symptoms of depression at 10 months in mothers or partners.
Conclusion: The intervention did not influence parents’ sense of competence even if the parents attended and liked the group meetings. This highlights the need for refinement of either the intervention approach or the expectation to its outcome.