Parenting Matters

Supporting Parents of Children Ages 0-8

A father reading to his children
A father reading to his children

Parents are among the most important people in the lives of young children. Parents include mothers and fathers, as well as other caregivers who act as parents. From birth, children rely on parents to provide them with the care they need to be happy and healthy, and to grow and develop well. But parents sometimes lack information and the support that they need for good parenting.

The Centers for Disease and Prevention and other government agencies asked the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) to review published information on parenting. The NASEM recently reported on what they found out about effective parenting practices and on how best to support parentsRead the report Parenting Matters: Supporting Parents of Children Ages 0-8.

Effective Parenting Practices

Parenting takes many different forms, but some parenting practices work well across diverse families and settings. The committee’s report looked at the evidence in the scientific literature and found these key ways parents can support their child’s healthy development:

  • Following the child’s lead and responding in a predictable way
  • Showing warmth and sensitivity
  • Having routines and household rules
  • Sharing books and talking with children
  • Supporting health and safety
  • Using appropriate discipline without harshness

Based on the information in the published studies, parents who use these practices can help their child stay healthy, be safe, and be successful in many areas—emotional, behavioral, cognitive, and social.

Elements of Effective Interventions

Parenting Matters Report Cover
Parenting Matters Report Cover

Parents need support. Intervention programs and services can help, although they need to be based on approaches that have been rigorously tested and shown to work. The committee’s report looked at the evidence backing up various intervention programs and services, and identified the features and practices of effective parenting interventions. These intervention programs help parents by using practices that make it easier for parents to attend and participate. Parents have diverse needs; no single approach is right for all parents. But the committee found several factors that have been successful among a wide range of intervention programs and services:

  • Treating parents as equal partners when figuring out which services most benefit them and their children
  • Making sure that programs meet the specific needs of families
  • Making sure that families with multiple service needs receive coordinated services
  • Creating opportunities for parents to connect with and receive support from other parents with similar circumstances
  • Addressing trauma in order to prevent it from interfering with parenting and healthy child development
  • Making sure that programs are well suited for the diverse cultures of families
  • Enhancing efforts to involve fathers

The report found that more research is needed, particularly about what works best for different parents. More information is also needed to understand how effective services can become more widely available.  The committee created recommendations for next steps to fill various gaps in research and information. Read the report, including the findings and recommendations.

The report was sponsored by the Administration for Children and Families, Bezos Family Foundation, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, David and Lucile Packard Foundation, U.S. Department of Education, Foundation for Child Development, Health Resources and Services Administration, Heising-Simons Foundation, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

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