Efforts to address the disparities between low-income and more affluent children in school readiness and academic achievement through early childhood education (ECE) programs have yielded mixed results. Such findings have led to a broader consideration of what competencies are essential in supporting children's transition to formal schooling and their long-term academic success. There has been a growing recognition of school readiness as multidimensional, encompassing not just pre-academic skills, but behavioral, emotional, and social competencies as well. This perspective also emphasizes that children are embedded in a network of relationships with their parents, teachers, and peers, and that interventions aimed at enhancing school outcomes must seek to improve the quality of those relationships. Thus, there has been a growing interest in interventions that aim to promote a more attuned parent-child relationship, wherein parents learn to give greater consideration to their child's internal experiences, to respond less reflexively and more reflectively to these experiences. Such interventions may be especially valuable for vulnerable families facing a multitude of adversities that may compromise caregiving. This study aims to implement and evaluate the Reflective Parenting Program (RPP) with families receiving ECE services in a community agency. RPP is a center-based, time-limited intervention designed to enhance parents' capacity to better understand and respond to their child's affective experiences, setting the stage enhanced behavioral and emotional regulation in the child. This project entails a randomized control trial of RPP with 240 English and Spanish-speaking parents of children enrolled in ECE services at Children's Institute Incorporated (CII). Parents will be randomized to either an English-language (n=60) or Spanish-language RPP intervention group (n=60) or an English-language (n=60) or Spanish-language (n=60) Control Group. Parents assigned to the Control Group and their children will continue to participate in any other services they are receiving through CII (i.e., standard of care) during their participation in the study. All familie will be assessed at pre-intervention (T1), post-intervention (T2), and at a 9 month follow-up (T3). In comparison to the Control Group, we hypothesize that: 1) children of parents participating in RPP will show significantly greater improvements in emotional and behavioral regulation in comparison to children of parents in the Control Group; 2) parents participating in RPP will report significantly greater improvements in parental reflective functioning, and decreases in parenting stress than parents in the Control Group; 3) parents participating in RPP will demonstrate significantly greater improvements in behavioral and emotional responsiveness and parental communication during parent-child interactions; 4) improvements in child, parent, and parent-child outcomes will be maintained over the 9 month follow-up period; 5) parents participating in RPP and therapists trained in RPP will report high levels of satisfaction.
Early childhood education (ECE) programs have yielded mixed results in addressing the disparities between low-income and more affluent children in school readiness and academic achievement. This study addresses the need to identify parenting interventions that are effective in promoting emotional and behavioral school readiness skills by implementing and evaluating the Reflective Parenting Program with ECE families in a community family service agency. Such interventions may be especially valuable for vulnerable families facing a multitude of adversities that may compromise caregiving, including stress associated with economic hardship or community violence.