PARIS (AFP) - A new study shows thatparent
training programs fail to reduce behavioral problems in
toddlers, suggesting that coaching on how to rear children may
be a waste of time and money.
average, behavioral problems afflict every seventh child aged 4
to 17, previously studies have shown.
Aggressive or extremely
defiant youngsters are said to
have externalised problems,
while those of kids who
withdraw, or suffer anxiety and
depression, are described as
childhood often have serious personal, social and economic
consequences later in life, experts say.
approximately 50 percent of preschoolers with behavior problems
develop mental health problems, including depression.
Besides the direct cost of treatment, there are social costs as
well: unemployment, family stress or violence, drug use and
increased crime have all been linked to behavioral difficulties
very early in life.
One approach is to deal with the
problems as they emerge through counseling, drug treatment, or
psychiatry. But this is expensive, and not always effective.
Another tack is to try to nip the problems in the bud by
discouraging the kind of parenting that can lead to troubled
behavior, such as unduly harsh discipline and unrealistic
For the study, published in theBritish
Medical Journal, researchers enrolled 300 mothers and
their eight-month old tots in theMelbourne
area into the training program.
studies, this one looked not just athigh
risk families, but a representative sampling of parents
and children from poor, middle income and wealthier families.
The scientists, led by Harriet Hiscock at the Centre forCommunity
Child Health inParkville,
Australia, compared behavior of the test group over an 18
month period with another set of mothers and kids who did not
receive any special counseling.
The results showed very
little difference between the two groups.
Mothers in the
program were somewhat less abusive and acquired more realistic
expectations of how quickly their children would progress.
But there was no significant difference is the level of behavior
problems in the children, or in the mental health of the
"The outcome at two years are insufficient to
support widespread introduction of a very early universal
program to prevent behavioral problems in toddlers," the