Universal Digital Programs for Promoting Mental and Relational Health for Parents of Young Children: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Universal Digital Programs for Promoting Mental and Relational Health for Parents of Young Children: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Opie, J. E. Esler, T. B. Clancy, E. M. Wright, B. Painter, F. Vuong, A. Booth, A. T. Newman, L. Johns-Hayden, A. Hameed, M. Hooker, L. Olsson, C. McIntosh, J. E.
Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review
Digital parenting programs aim to increase program access, improve psychosocial outcomes for parents and children, and support triage to targeted interventions where required. This meta-analysis assessed the efficacy of online parenting programs in improving parenting skills and capabilities, and by consequence, the mental health and well-being of parents and children, and the quality of the parent-child relationship. Studies were included if they were: (1) online, (2) self-delivered, (3) designed for universal general population prevention, (4) evaluated experimental or quasi-experimental designs, and (5) assessed parent and child emotional and/or relational health, from pregnancy to 5 years of age. A systematic search of electronic databases and grey literature identified 22 studies that met inclusion criteria, including 24 independent samples, with 5671 unique parents. Meta-analyses were conducted using random effects models and Cohen's d effects. Small-to-moderate improvements in parent depression, anxiety, self-efficacy, and social support were observed. No effects on parent stress, satisfaction, or parent-child relationship quality were observed. Meta-regression and sub-group analysis were conducted to identify sensitivity or moderation effects. Collectively, findings suggest any benefits of online parenting programs mostly occur at the time of the intervention, for parent mental health and well-being outcomes, and that enduring effects are unlikely. However, given the cost effectiveness and accessibility of online programs, further research into ways of sustaining effects on parenting outcomes is warranted. Furthermore, given the centrality of the parent-child bond to child development across the lifecourse, additional investment in new digitally facilitated approaches focusing on this bond are likewise warranted.PROSPERO registration CRD42021275647.

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