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J Affect Disord. 2019 Mar 1;246:820-827. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2018.12.120. Epub 2018 Dec 26.

Mellow Babies and Mellow Toddlers: Effects on maternal mental health of a group-based parenting intervention for at-risk families with young children.

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University of Edinburgh, Scotland, UK.
Mellow Parenting, Scotland, UK.
University of Edinburgh, Scotland, UK. Electronic address:



Parental risk factors can have a significant detrimental impact on child development, yet most parenting interventions do not address parental mental health. There is also a dearth of evidence regarding parenting interventions for families with children under two years old. Mellow Parenting (MP) is a suite of parenting interventions targeting at-risk families with complex needs, including those with very young children. Preliminary studies suggest that MP can improve both parent and child outcomes, but no evaluation has been conducted in routine practice.


Using a real-world design we analysed routine data from a UK cohort of n = 183 mother-child dyads, collected over a 21-month period. Data were gathered immediately pre- and post-intervention. Outcomes included maternal mental health, parenting confidence, daily parenting stress, and child behaviour. Intention-to-treat and 'completer' analyses were performed. Associations between attendance, participant demographics, and pre-post change in outcomes were modelled.


MP participation was associated with improvements in maternal mental health (d = 0.36), parenting confidence (d = 0.42), and a component of child psychosocial behaviour (conduct problems; d = 0.36), but not overall child difficulties, or daily parenting stress. Mothers with a partner experienced larger benefits in mental health and parenting confidence compared to single mothers. Younger mothers, and those with a history of mental health problems, attended more intervention sessions.


The study used real-world data and was thus uncontrolled, limiting causal interpretations.


This is the first study to explore MP participation on a multi-site national level and suggests that group-based parenting interventions may be effective for at-risk families. These results should be expanded upon via controlled studies that incorporate follow-up data.


At-risk; Child conduct problems; Infant; Maternal Mental Health; Mellow Parenting; Parenting; Parenting Intervention; Toddler

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