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Child Care Health Dev. 2010 Mar;36(2):198-207. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2214.2009.01037.x. Epub 2009 Dec 10.

Factors influencing parenting in early childhood: a prospective longitudinal study focusing on change.

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Department of Oral and Dental Science, Bristol Dental School, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK.



Parenting influences child outcomes but does not occur in a vacuum. It is influenced by socio-economic resources, parental health, and child characteristics. Our aim was to investigate the relative importance of these influences by exploring the relationship between changing parental health and socio-economic circumstances and changes in parenting.


Data collected from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children were used to develop an eight-item parenting measure at 8 and 33 months. The measure covered warmth, support, rejection, and control and proved valid and reliable. Regression analysis examined changes in financial circumstance, housing tenure, marital status, social support, maternal health and depression, and their influence on parenting score. The final model controlled for maternal age, education, and baseline depression.


Most mothers reported warm, supportive parenting at both times. Maternal depression was the only variable for which both positive and negative change was associated with changes in parenting score. Less depression was associated with better parenting scores and more depression with worse parenting scores. Improvements in social support and maternal general health were both associated with improved parenting scores, but for neither of these variables was deterioration associated with deterioration in parenting scores. Worsening financial circumstances predicted deterioration in parenting score, but improvements were not predictive of improvements in parenting.


Programmes aiming to improve parental health and social support are likely to return greater dividends with regard to improving parenting than programmes that aim to reduce family poverty.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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