Becoming a parent is a major life transition, and a substantial number of men and women have difficulty navigating this transition. The impact of adjustment difficulties, such as anxiety and/or depression can be profound, both at home and in the workplace. As well as an immediate effect on well-being, depression also affects parent-infant interactions and has long-term implications for the child’s cognitive, behavioural and social development (Beck, 1998), as well as negative effects on partners (Goodman, 2004) and the couple relationship (Barnes, 2006).
There is an urgent need for disseminating an effective intervention to assist with the transition to parenthood.
Towards Parenthood consists of a self-help workbook for parents comprising of nine chapters – eight to be read during a partner’s pregnancy and one to be read following birth. There is a separate chapter for fathers and mothers to highlight the particular issues for each, and remaining chapters either joint or focusing on managing common issues. The content is designed to improve coping skills and problem solving. Importantly there is a focus on improving couple communication and reduce conflict.
The impact a baby may have on the couple relationship is a key. Many men underestimate the enormity of this life change impacting not only on wellbeing, but managing sleep deprivation and extra demands whilst at the same time continuing a demanding work schedule. Strategies to problem-solve in advance of the baby’s birth, open channels for open discussion, enhance self-esteem and parenting competency are introduced. Commonly men do not voice these concerns.
Towards Parenthood was developed through a rigorous process, including a rigorous literature review and an expert team led by psychologists at the Parent-Infant Research Institute who have a wealth of experience working with families making the transition to parenthood.
Towards Parenthood was evaluated in a randomised controlled trial with findings provide support for the effectiveness of the intervention as a preparation for parenthood program. Both mothers and fathers were asked to jointly complete the workbook. The initial RCTs focused on the significant beneficial effects on the key outcome measures, for mothers, with a preventive effect demonstrated for both high and low risk women and resultant lower depression, anxiety and stress. Anectodal evidence from men corroborated findings.
Given the profound impact of adjustment difficulties on families, these findings are significant as many current approaches to preparing for the birth do not address the emotional adjustment needed.
For more information about the Towards Parenthood self-help program, or to purchase the workbook, click here.