Parental involvement in Primary School interventions to support children’s mental health and emotional well-being: a systematic review of the literature and exploration of StoryLinks

Assignment type: Thesis
Author: Joanna Spragg
Submitted: June 2017


There is considerable emphasis in research literature and educational policy on the importance of parental involvement in supporting childrenā€™s academic and social outcomes. Much of this is based on correlational, rather than experimental evidence. Also, the focus has been on childrenā€™s academic outcomes and attainment, as opposed to emotional and social outcomes. A systematic review of existing literature was conducted to evaluate recent empirical studies of school-based interventions that actively involve parents in supporting and promoting childrenā€™s mental health and emotional well-being. It aimed to describe the characteristics of such interventions and to consider whether there is research evidence supporting the ā€˜added valueā€™ of these. Results suggested the interventions promoted a range of positive outcomes related to childrenā€™s mental health and emotional well-being. However, further work is needed to understand to what extent positive outcomes are related to the specific approaches and methods used, especially as there is much variation in the types of interventions used. Currently there is little robust empirical evidence for the additional benefits of actively involving parents in interventions to support childrenā€™s emotional well-being. Also, further research needs to be undertaken that seeks to consult with the parents, children and professionals facilitating these complex interventions to better understand potential barriers and facilitating factors of parental involvement in school-based programmes.

The empirical paper aimed to explore the experiences and views of parents, children and facilitators who have been involved in the StoryLinks intervention. StoryLinks is an individualised, parent-partnership intervention that involves children, parents and school in the co-creation of stories to support childrenā€™s emotional well-being and literacy skills (Waters, 2010). StoryLinks is based on the principles of therapeutic storywriting and attachment theory, including the use of metaphor to explore feelings and story-making as a way of supporting relationships. There is some preliminary evidence that the intervention may have a positive effect on childrenā€™s emotional and social well-being, behaviour and rates of exclusion, as well as the parent-child relationship (Water, 2014). The current exploratory study drew on the multiple perspectives of parents, children and facilitators who have been involved in the intervention. The research aimed to gain a better understanding of their experiences of the implementation, process and outcomes of StoryLinks. Semi-structured interviews with eight participants (four facilitators and two parentchild dyads) were conducted and thematic analysis was applied to the transcripts. The findings for each group were analysed and presented separately. There were some commonalities between groups, suggesting that participants had mostly had a positive experience of StoryLinks and considered it to be a collaborative intervention. Outcomes identified by participants included that StoryLinks had supported relationships and adults felt they had developed greater insights into their childā€™s emotions and behaviour. Findings were discussed in the context of relevant literature and research related to therapeutic storywriting approaches and parental involvement in interventions. Consideration was also given to implications for future practice and research.

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Can Interactive Media Replace the Parent as the ā€˜More Knowledgeable Otherā€™ in Early Language Development?

Assignment type: Essay
Author: Kirsty Russell
Submitted: November 2018

Society is currently living in a screen age. Interactive media devices are increasingly being used by young children, often independently, without the presence of a parent. Parental reasons for this focus on educational, entertainment and babysitting purposes. Building on behaviourist and socio-constructivist understandings of young childrenā€™s language development, this is problematic for two important reasons. Firstly, it reduces the amount of parental linguistic input that a child receives in their early years, that is essential for language development. Secondly, features of parent-child interactions that drive language development cannot be replicated by interactive media use when children are alone (including scaffolding techniques, promoting joint attention, providing gestural clues and providing a familiar voice). Ultimately, interactive media cannot replace the parent as the More Knowledgeable Other in young childrenā€™s language development. Parents need to apply what is known about language development and be aware of their important role as the More Knowledgeable Other in interactive learning experiences before it is too late. Parents should engage in learning activities that revolve around parent-child interactions, before passing the responsibility of childrenā€™s language learning to interactive media becomes normalised. Implications for Educational Psychology practice and potential areas for further research are also discussed.

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Exploring the interrelationship between anxiety, interpretation bias and parenting factors in military families

Assignment type:Ā Thesis
Author:Ā Sarah Owen
Submitted:Ā June 2015


Theoretical frameworks suggest that increased anxiety symptoms are associated with a cognitive interpretation bias; anxious individuals are more likely to interpret ambiguous information as threatening and dangerous. Several models have considered the role of parents and parenting in the aetiology of cognitive biases that place children at increased risk for the development of anxiety. For example, parenting characterised by overprotection/emotional overinvolvement and over control has been associated with anxiety disorders in children. The present research explored the association between parent and child anxiety, interpretation biases and parent-child relationships within military families, a population at greater risk of experiencing enduring anxiety.

Twenty children aged 8-11 years and their mothers reported their anxiety symptoms and completed a homophone task. Words could be interpreted as either threatening or non-threatening and were categorised into separation and general threat themes. Parents also completed the Five Minute Speech Sample, where they expressed thoughts and feelings about their child. Results revealed that parent and child anxiety was significantly positively correlated as expected. Childrenā€™s anxious cognitions were significantly positively correlated to self-reported and maternal anxiety (ps<.05). In contrast to the expected hypothesis, children and parent interpretation biases were not significantly correlated. Although the research set out to examine the extent to which interpretation biases could act as a mediator between parenting and child anxiety, evidence for a mediated pathway could not be established within the present research. The impact of these findings are discussed with particular reference to the importance of understanding the aetiology of anxiety and exploring the role of the intergenerational transmission of anxiety.

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